Who controls the balance of power in your organization?
Do you allow the balance of power to be managed by others? Power imbalance, which ultimately results in dis-empowerment for some, is quite common and has costly impacts on your projects and teams. Lets look at common sources of imbalance and a strategy to improve.
Is one group of people perceived as more powerful than others in the organization? Are they able to direct outcomes because of their position, location or other characteristics? Often they work directly under the direction of a leader who favors them. Sadly, shortfalls often result when only a subset of a team directs the outcome, which is better handled through a wider cross collaboration. Even more damaging is impact on morale and engagement of the team that has little or no input opportunities. When you consider that creativity is being suppressed, you might be missing your next big breakthrough.
In most teams there is a bully. This is the person who gets their way through coercion, intimidation or aggression. Often bullies are in a leadership position because their aggressive behavior produces ‘results’. Frequently bullies acts as the intermediary for someone else who is incapable of dealing with conflict. The question is, if you want to send the message to your team that such behavior is acceptable. Do expect that the morale, if not the health through increased stress, of those being bullied to be impacted.
Is your environment one where most decisions need to be run by someone else, before they are final? Does your team collaborate and devise a plan, only to be required to have decisions approved by someone outside the team. This results frequently in delays through additional meetings, redundant clarifications and plan revisions. Worse, teams become disengaged when they are unable to make decisions and feel micromanaged as a regular practice. Consider too, that constant micromanagement is detrimental to trust between teams and their leaders.
Why and What Cost
At their core these dis-empowerment practices are negative control mechanisms. The question is, whom or what purpose do they serve? They are certainly counter to team effectiveness. Suppressed collaboration, delays, reduced morale and engagement along with increased stress will no doubt impact the cost and quality of your projects, and as a result the bottom line of your organization.
Moving to Empowerment
- Invite feedback about what’s not working. If the power balance is severely skewed, expect to make a commensurate effort to get to the truth.
- Re-build collaboration and trust. Begin by modeling the conduct that you expect from your leaders and teams.
- Enable decision making at the lowest possible level by setting parameters for teams to operate within.
- Define organizational values and shape your culture in support of optimizing your organization.