Understanding Empowerment 

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December 2018

Coaching is objective-driven, and in my experience as a Coach, it is not uncommon for a client to have ‘empowerment’ as an objective. It is good to aspire to be empowered. Often, it filters to the expectations of a promotion at work, making or having more money than you are making currently or even independence from family or a specific debilitating situation in their life. Empowerment therefore is a positive spin to have or to be in. It is associated with success and often used in situations when something positive has or is happening. When we achieve our goals, when we receive a boost to our efforts etc. A step from lack to abundance or from anxiety to confidence. Such moments are uplifting, and one has a personal sense of accomplishment.

In that case Empowerment is a great objective to have. It must be encouraged and pursued. But what is it? Where do we find it? Why is it important for people have it? Is it something tangible that we give or receive? Is it transient or permanent? Is it an idea or an event? Is it something we are or can become or something that we have or can strive to have? These are simple follow up questions but not easy to answer. I have three different definitions of the word from Google. Different scenarios describing empowerment. Clearly, different things in different situations.

Definition 1.  ‘Authority or power given to someone to do something’ (something we give or receive)

Definition 2. The process of becoming stronger and more confident especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights (something we are or want to become)

Definition 3.  A management practice of sharing information, rewards and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems, improve service and performance. (something we do)

From the above descriptions, empowerment can be said to be a position/situation of favor where one has access to those tools or assets that improve your current situation (externally driven). Such a situation however can also be temporary. In the work place authority can be given or withdrawn changing the situation from empowerment to dis-empowerment. Empowerment is also the ability to make certain decisions about self and or others around you. From the decisions above empowerment seems to be externally generated and bestowed on you. Can this be long-lasting empowerment? It seems this empowerment is from outside and somehow one must qualify to get it. There must be another way of empowerment which never leaves your hands and over which you have total control. I will discuss the empowerment that comes from within. Generated and driven by you; from you and therefore a permanent source of empowerment.

In my reflections as a Coach on this matter, I have concluded that empowerment is more about where it originates from than where it is found or how it is used.

Firstly, empowerment is a concept of the mind. It is a value and belief in something that you want to be or achieve and share. It is a construct so clear to you that you can feel it or touch it. Such a strong belief then becomes a conviction which drives your behavior and determines your lifestyle. Secondly, empowerment is commitment to something greater or outside of yourself. You do not waver from the belief; Thirdly, empowerment is action.  When you add Beliefs, Commitment and Action you are truly empowered; empowered to achieve anything that you set your mind to do. You are the source; you are in control and for as long as you live, you can action on your beliefs for improvement, growth and success.

So, when your objective is empowerment, I ask, what do you believe in, show me your values and I will show you where the source of your empowerment lies. To be empowered is to be driven. To be driven is having that energy and motivation to pursue a goal to the successful end. People can therefore feel empowered all the time since it is a function of our beliefs, convictions and actions. It will not stop or end when the task is done. The stronger the conviction, the higher the standard to which you will hold yourself. Empowerment is not a gift or permission bestowed on you. It is a way of being. Change will come incrementally, so over time empowerment leads to competence and dexterity, strong relationships and trust.

Discard bad or self-limiting beliefs; they will not serve you well. They have the potential to dis-empower you. When you think of empowerment ask yourself, what beliefs do I hold, what are my values, what am I striving to be, to achieve? Set your beliefs straight and ensure that they are a good source of empowerment.

The author is a Life and Performance Coach

For comments and enquiries: nkanzabeatrice@gmail.com


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