I am, by profession, an executive coach. Part of my job is to advocate fiercely for a client’s best self and to champion possibility. Still, I am often asked, “What do you do if you really don’t think the person is capable of accomplishing the goals they’ve set?”
My answer is always, “Who am I to judge?” I’m certainly not going to tell someone they can’t do something or they should aim lower.
When it comes to aiming high with employees, however, you have to be careful. If you are “Captain Empowerment” (one of the characters we looked at in our series on seven ways good managers sometimes get it wrong ) you are so encouraging and have such a high value for fairness that you treat everyone the same way regardless of their competence or skill level. You believe in offering everyone an equal opportunity. You believe anything is possible.
And if you haven’t been disappointed yet, you will be soon.
Make Sure People Are Ready for Empowerment
Just because you see great potential in an employee and desperately want that person to be capable of great growth doesn’t mean they are actually ready, willing, and able to rise to the occasion.
For some employees, all you have to do is set the bar high and they won’t stop until they succeed—in fact, they will blow the goal away! But other employees really just want to come to work, stay cozy in their comfort zone, and do exactly what is expected. These are not the people with whom empowerment will be effective.
For these employees you will want to use the fundamental principles of Situational Leadership® II—carefully assess their competence and confidence on each new task, using past performance and evidence of transferable skills as guidelines. The employee will need to see this evidence for themselves and be gently prodded every step of the way to move forward.
As Ken Blanchard says: “Different strokes for different folks.” Empowerment is not for everyone all the time!
About the author
Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Her posts appear every Saturday as a part of a series for well-intentioned managers.
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