3 Insights for Empowering People – Primary Focus Areas For Every Leader

Adam Bright

In my previous blog, we looked at the 3 secrets to a courageous community. Today I want to do a deep dive on the last secret—empowering people—and share three insights I have gained over the years about what it takes to empower people successfully.

Empowerment Insight #1: Their need is their speed.

People will only move as fast as their needs are being fully met.

Recently, I worked with a company that had a problem with boundaries. Though the leaders had a heart to fully empower their people, they were struggling to set healthy boundaries with their employees, and this was replicating out to poor boundaries with their clients. The lack of boundaries had inadvertently created a dynamic where the clients were being allowed to bully the employees and demand changes to projects, which was causing a lot of pain for the employees. Instead of being empowered, the employees were being victimized.

In working with the leadership to diagnose and build a solution to this problem, my primary goal was to help them identify the needs that were not being met in their relationship with their employees. I explained that people only move into empowerment as fast as their needs are being met. Their need is their speed to empowerment!

One of the big unmet needs we identified in this particular situation was the need for certainty. People will only step out into something when their certainty bucket is full. They can only truly be empowered when they know the limits of their empowerment. The lack of boundaries was a direct result of the leadership failing to clarify the limits of the roles they were empowering their employees to fulfill.

Each person may have a slightly different need that must be met for them to feel safe enough to step out into their empowerment. Some may need to feel more of a connection to their leader or to their team. Others may need to know that their role is critically important. Others may need more time and job flexibility to fully be empowered. Whatever it is, if you want to empower someone, you need to find out what they need and make sure that need is being met.

Empowerment Insight #2: Fuel passion in their place.

People will thrive and be empowered the most in the place of their passion.

The first way to help someone find passion in their place is simply to watch and listen to what the person is already passionate about. When you place a person in their place of passion, they then have the emotional capacity to own the space fully as they connect that passion with the larger mission you are empowering them to help accomplish. Jesus did this with His disciples. He framed what He was doing as being “fishers of men” to a bunch of fishermen. He was redirecting their current passion in order to empower and release them into their respective roles in the kingdom.

Another thing that classically inspires passion in people—even if they aren’t particularly passionate about the task they are doing—is to help them connect to the greater meaning and purpose in their role.

A great example of this is the case of Joie de Vivre boutique hotel chain. They asked their cleaning staff to not clean the rooms properly for one week—to leave a bed slightly unmade, a dirty towel in the bathroom, or a trash can full. At the end of the week, they reported the feedback they had received from the guests to the cleaning staff. They heard things like, “Our holiday was not as relaxing,” “My work trip was stressful,” etc. This allowed the staff to see that their jobs were not just about cleaning a room. They were about making family holidays as relaxing and refreshing as possible, or helping the business traveler recover from a day’s work when they could not get into their own bed. Their cleaning impacted real people in very real ways. Their jobs now took on a greater sense of meaning. From that meaning, passion arose and the cleaning staff rated job satisfaction much higher as a result of this perspective shift.

We as kingdom people should find it easy to discover the bigger meaning in what we do in our work spaces and various organizations. If we are leaders, it is our job to inspire and empower our people by constantly communicating this meaning, both on the corporate and individual level.

Empowerment Insight #3: Find results in the restoration.

Look for where people get results easily in the process of “restoring all things.”

The idea of “restoring all things” comes from Acts 3:21: “. . . whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Basically, we know that when Jesus returns, He will complete the “restoring.” Until then, He has activated the kingdom in each of us (Matthew 12:28, Luke 17:21) to begin partnering with the Father to restore things (people, systems, and things) back to their intended perfect design. Playing our role in this process of restoration is one of the key definitions of success for us as believers. Everything we call “work” should be restorative in nature.

As a leader, I want to empower people to achieve great results, and this means looking for where their God-given talents, strengths, and personality are designed to function restoratively. Often when working with businesses or churches, I look for where people are already having some great results in their life or in their part of the business, team, or ministry. Seeing this and highlighting this in their lives can help empower them into even more.

A few years back, I was working with an older gentleman who was struggling in his role as a salesperson in a business. He knew most of the big business people in the city and had great relationships with them, but couldn’t get them to close a single deal. During our conversation, I kept looking for where he was already getting results. After answering various questions, he finally responded to me, with a fair bit of frustration, “Adam, I’m not a salesperson! I just want to help people—particularly my friends.”

When he said this, I saw the win! I asked him, “How do you see your role in this business?”

“I’m more of a PR person.”

“Great!” I exclaimed. “Let’s change your role to PR. All you need to do from this point forward is to see if anything that we sell in this company can help your friends. If something can, then call Sue to help you do the paperwork and admin side of the deal.”

In the next 6 months, this gentleman went on to close more deals than he had in the previous 3 years! He was now empowered to be who he was designed to be—a “PR” person who helps his friends in their businesses.

So, in summary—if we want to lead empowered people and build empowered teams, it is essential that we focus on meeting people’s needs, fueling their passion, and helping them get into alignment for achieving their best results. Simple to understand, challenging to do, but absolutely worth it!

We’ll continue this topic in my next blog by looking at 3 key beliefs that every leader needs in order to get results—especially in difficult circumstances or when the context seems out of control.

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