|By Michael Bushong||
|July 1, 2014 06:00 AM EDT||
Frequently in peoples’ careers, ascension to the ranks of middle management is rapid. But then something happens. A small number of people break through, but the majority of folks seem to reach those middle tiers and then stall out. People often find themselves unable to be effective operating at the Director and Senior Director levels. The skill of orchestrating cross-functional teams proves elusive. Indeed, it is difficult to make people over whom you have no direct authority do what you need them to do.
The response for many people is an almost reflexive plea for empowerment. But there is a fundamental flaw in requesting to be empowered as you aspire to higher ranks.
What does empowered actually mean?
Empower actually means to give someone power. It’s really somewhat ironic. The very thing that you crave is authority, but you do not have the authority unless you are given it by someone else. There is no greater definition for lack of empowerment than actively seeking someone’s permission to have authority.
Forgetting that Merriam-Webster moment, the challenge with seeking empowerment is that it is a self-defeating activity. The request for empowerment highlights that you do not have it – to both your boss and to the people over whom you seek to have some sort of control.
Consider a moment a situation where requests for empowerment are common. If you are in a business role, there might be debates about the right course to take. Perhaps you are in a technical role and the merits of one architectural approach are being measured against another. Whatever the situation, the reason that people want empowerment in the moment is because they find themselves in a stalemate, and they are looking to tip the vote in their favor.
The challenge here is that the very reason you want empowerment is the reason that a mandate handed down from high is not likely to work. Decisions are frequently made high up in an organization, but it is the actions of the individuals that matter. And if they are asked to do something they don’t believe in (or worse yet, something they believe to be the wrong thing to do), no amount of mandate will make them work effectively.
In situations like these, the request for empowerment is actually an acknowledgement that the individual has failed to lead the group to an outcome. As someone in management, the question this raises for me is simple: should an individual who cannot lead people to an outcome be made more of a leader?
Now, the answer here is never crystal clear. And I don’t want to suggest that empowerment doesn’t ever matter. But the best leaders lead not through mandate but through conviction. They are able to outline a vision, sell it to their teammates, and then drive towards it. In the best teams, this is done without any real mandate or official empowerment. It just happens.
So as a leader, when you find yourself in a position that you are requesting empowerment, it likely signals a moment that you ought to be more introspective.
Are you taking enough initiative?
In far too many cases, there actually is rough consensus amongst team members, but everyone is operating under the assumption that someone else will make the call. All the team really needs is to be nudged in the right direction. In times like these, it is often enough to simply make a call and move the team forward.
If you find that the reason for inaction is inertia, you might consider just making the decision. That you are willing to stand up and say what direction ought to be taken might be enough to rally people behind your decision. And if this is the case, it demonstrates that you are both willing and able to lead teams.
Don’t be afraid to be wrong
It is amazing how many people are unwilling to make a decision because they are afraid of being wrong. A lot of these empowerment battles happen because people are passive about their convictions. There is a real fear of taking a stand because they are worried that either their position is not right or that people will not follow.
Oftentimes, it is sufficient to just make a decision and put the decision out there. It might not be the right one, but people will react to the decision and then iterate on it. This puts you in position to solicit input and modify the decision, which demonstrates your willingness to listen, which further solidifies your role at the lead.
Are you considering the individuals?
Especially in technical debates, we tend to assume that the merits of the discussion are 100% logical. But without understanding what is driving peoples’ positions, we cannot possibly hope to convince everyone to move in a particular direction. Those who are looking for empowerment are frequently trying to make a decision based on logic for an outcome that has an element of emotion.
Make sure that you understand every dissenting point of view. You should know not just the logical part of the argument but the emotional side that is backstopping it. If you have convinced yourself that there is no emotional side, then you need to start looking at base assumptions to see where people are diverging. If you assume the root of any conflict is logic, you are likely not fully considering the situation, which means that no amount of empowerment is going to help you.
The bottom line
As you move upward in your career, you will invariably find yourself in positions where you do not have complete control over everyone you need to do your job. Early on in this process, we all believe that mandate is the missing ingredient for making progress. But leadership is about leading, which goes well beyond mandate. If you find yourself demanding to be empowered so that you can make progress on a difficult task, chances are that you are discounting the role of the individual in leading a team.
In these moments, choose to be more introspective and determine if the real missing ingredient is command and control, or whether actual success gated by your willingness and ability to lead. More often than not, you will find that your pursuit of empowerment is misguided.
[Today’s fun fact: A group of cats is called a clowder. I couldn’t decide whether to make a cloud or a cat chowder joke here.]
SYS-CON Events announced today that Spirent Communications, the leader in testing navigation and positioning systems, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Spirent Communications enables innovations in communications technologies that help connect people. Whether it is service provider, data centers, enterprise IT networks, mobile communications, connected vehicles or the Inte...
Oct. 10, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 200
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing thes...
Oct. 10, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 756
Achim Weiss is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of ProfitBricks. In 1995, he broke off his studies to co-found the web hosting company "Schlund+Partner." The company "Schlund+Partner" later became the 1&1 web hosting product line. From 1995 to 2008, he was the technical director for several important projects: the largest web hosting platform in the world, the second largest DSL platform, a video on-demand delivery network, the largest eMail backend in Europe, and a universal billing syste...
Oct. 10, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 238
Containers are revolutionizing the way we deploy and maintain our infrastructures, but monitoring and troubleshooting in a containerized environment can still be painful and impractical. Understanding even basic resource usage is difficult - let alone tracking network connections or malicious activity. In his session at DevOps Summit, Gianluca Borello, Sr. Software Engineer at Sysdig, will cover the current state of the art for container monitoring and visibility, including pros / cons and li...
Oct. 10, 2015 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 265
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Oct. 10, 2015 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 174
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively.
Oct. 10, 2015 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 219
As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ability. Many are unable to effectively engage and inspire, creating forward momentum in the direction of desired change. Renowned for its approach to leadership and emphasis on their people, organizations increasingly look to our military for insight into these challenges.
Oct. 9, 2015 11:15 PM EDT Reads: 206
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet condit...
Oct. 9, 2015 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 650
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi's VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driv...
Oct. 9, 2015 10:15 PM EDT Reads: 144
The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
Oct. 9, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 246
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, will discuss the impact of technology on identity....
Oct. 9, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 453
There are many considerations when moving applications from on-premise to cloud. It is critical to understand the benefits and also challenges of this migration. A successful migration will result in lower Total Cost of Ownership, yet offer the same or higher level of robustness. Migration to cloud shifts computing resources from your data center, which can yield significant advantages provided that the cloud vendor an offer enterprise-grade quality for your application.
Oct. 9, 2015 09:30 PM EDT Reads: 318
DevOps is gaining traction in the federal government – and for good reasons. Heightened user expectations are pushing IT organizations to accelerate application development and support more innovation. At the same time, budgetary constraints require that agencies find ways to decrease the cost of developing, maintaining, and running applications. IT now faces a daunting task: do more and react faster than ever before – all with fewer resources.
Oct. 9, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 416
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
Oct. 9, 2015 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 320
The web app is agile. The REST API is agile. The testing and planning are agile. But alas, data infrastructures certainly are not. Once an application matures, changing the shape or indexing scheme of data often forces at best a top down planning exercise and at worst includes schema changes that force downtime. The time has come for a new approach that fundamentally advances the agility of distributed data infrastructures. Come learn about a new solution to the problems faced by software organ...
Oct. 9, 2015 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 937