Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

The misguided pursuit of empowerment

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.]

The post The misguided pursuit of empowerment appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

Latest Stories
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developm...
"We formed Formation several years ago to really address the need for bring complete modernization and software-defined storage to the more classic private cloud marketplace," stated Mark Lewis, Chairman and CEO of Formation Data Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Updating DevOps to the latest production data slows down your development cycle. Probably it is due to slow, inefficient conventional storage and associated copy data management practices. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dhiraj Sehgal, in Product and Solution at Tintri, will talk about DevOps and cloud-focused storage to update hundreds of child VMs (different flavors) with updates from a master VM in minutes, saving hours or even days in each development cycle. He will also...
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
A look across the tech landscape at the disruptive technologies that are increasing in prominence and speculate as to which will be most impactful for communications – namely, AI and Cloud Computing. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Curtis Peterson, VP of Operations at RingCentral, will highlight the current challenges of these transformative technologies and share strategies for preparing your organization for these changes. This “view from the top” will outline the latest trends and developm...
Things are changing so quickly in IoT that it would take a wizard to predict which ecosystem will gain the most traction. In order for IoT to reach its potential, smart devices must be able to work together. Today, there are a slew of interoperability standards being promoted by big names to make this happen: HomeKit, Brillo and Alljoyn. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Adam Justice, vice president and general manager of Grid Connect, will review what happens when smart devices don’t work togethe...
When you focus on a journey from up-close, you look at your own technical and cultural history and how you changed it for the benefit of the customer. This was our starting point: too many integration issues, 13 SWP days and very long cycles. It was evident that in this fast-paced industry we could no longer afford this reality. We needed something that would take us beyond reducing the development lifecycles, CI and Agile methodologies. We made a fundamental difference, even changed our culture...
“RackN is a software company and we take how a hybrid infrastructure scenario, which consists of clouds, virtualization, traditional data center technologies - how to make them all work together seamlessly from an operational perspective,” stated Dan Choquette, Founder of RackN, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 6-8, 2017 at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York Call for Papers is now open.
"Tintri was started in 2008 with the express purpose of building a storage appliance that is ideal for virtualized environments. We support a lot of different hypervisor platforms from VMware to OpenStack to Hyper-V," explained Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dataloop.IO, an innovator in cloud IT-monitoring whose products help organizations save time and money, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dataloop.IO is an emerging software company on the cutting edge of major IT-infrastructure trends including cloud computing and microservices. The company, founded in the UK but now based in San Fran...
"Avere Systems is a hybrid cloud solution provider. We have customers that want to use cloud storage and we have customers that want to take advantage of cloud compute," explained Rebecca Thompson, VP of Marketing at Avere Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.