“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” -Alice Walker
“I feel like I’m losing control,” my client blurted out at the start of a recent session. “I simply don’t seem to have any power over my employees.”
I sat for a moment and then responded by asking, “What would it look like for you to be in power within your business?”
He reflected for a bit, then said, “I guess my employees would be following directions, doing what I ask of them, and I would not feel like I had to constantly babysit everyone to ensure they were doing what I hired them to do.”
“And I’m guessing this current situation that you are describing is pretty exhausting for you,” I added.
“You got that right!” he exclaimed. “I can’t focus on what I need to do to grow the company because I’m always having to double check everyone’s work, handle dropped balls with clients and have what seems like endless conversations about expectations and where they aren’t being met.”
I paused, and said, finally, “it sounds to me like you’ve given your power away. Because of this, you are creating an environment where, in order to feel in control, you expect your employees to also give up their power. No wonder you are experiencing things as out of control. No one seems to be in their power, that’s why you see the behaviors you are witnessing.”
“Oh boy,” was all my client said.
I went on. “What if you found a way where no one needed to give their power away and everything worked out?”
“That’s what I want. It’s no fun to be the one always feeling like I have to make everything happen,” my client replied with an exasperated sigh.
“I can imagine it isn’t,” I said. “The important thing to do, now, is to understand how and where the power relinquishment and control expectation happen and determine what gets to change.”
My client remained silent. I continued.
“When we think in terms of being in power, we often unconsciously follow a course of action that positions us to have our power taken from us, or more aptly put, to give our power away. In actuality, the only true power we have is in our choice. After we make that choice, everything that comes from it is out of our control. You want your choice to have influence in its power to create a desired outcome.”
My client laughed, softly. “Is that why you recently suggested I read the book, Power vs Force by David Hawkins? I started it, and in the preface, he wrote something that I’m seeing applies to what you are saying. I actually wrote it right here in my coaching journal. ‘We think we live by forces we control, but in fact, we are governed by power from unrevealed sources, power over which we have no control.’ When I read that, I knew it was something I would need to remember.”
I laughed. “That’s wonderful! You are beginning to recognize the dots that get to be connected – a very significant first step! So, we are looking at a situation where you have felt you needed to control your employees in order for them to do what you need them to do. Is that a fair assessment?”
“I would say it is, yes,” my client replied.
“Okay,” I said, “and now you see that this sense of control that you strive for is not something you can actually attain. When you attempt to enforce power over others, you create situations where you feel more and more out of control, because you are meant to experience exactly that – the fact you are, indeed, out of control, or in other words, not in control.”
“Hmmm, yes, so what do I do instead?” my client asked.
“Well, I’d say that you want to look for approaches that shift the focus of having power over your employees to creating opportunities for them to harness and utilize their own power in healthy, fulfilling and productive ways. Right now, it sounds like they are doing this in unhealthy ways in reaction to your attempts to control them. With this new awareness, you now have the chance to develop empowerment situations, both for yourself and your employees.”
“Wow, yeah, I can totally see this,” my client responded enthusiastically. “How do I do that?”
My reply was simple. “By understanding the true impact Control, Power and Empowerment have in your engagements. Are you in front of your computer?”
“Great! Google the definition of control and read it to me.”
“Got it,” he replied. “It says, ‘the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or course of events.’”
“Okay,” I said. “Now, look up the definition for power.”
“’Power – the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.’ Wow, that’s the same definition!”
“It is,” I said, “and is it true based on what we have discussed? Can you truly direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events?”
“Not unless they choose to allow me to or give their power away to me,” my client said slowly.
“That’s it!” I replied enthusiastically. “And is this what you want? For them to give their power over to you, so that you can control their behavior to ensure that things go exactly as you would like?”
“No, not at all!” my client responded emphatically. “I would like my team to want to do their jobs and help create an environment of support and a culture of collaboration and community.”
“Alright,” I said, “so this is what you need to do, yourself. Create an environment of support and a culture of collaboration and community. What this would take is for everyone to be in their own power – directing all operations and engagement toward a commonly held and acknowledged goal. Is that right?”
“That’s right,” my client replied.
“Okay, now let’s have you look up the definition of empower and empowerment,” I said.
“’Empower – to give the authority or power to someone to do something.
Empowerment – The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s own life and claiming one’s rights.’”
“Which approach do you feel will render the results you’re going for,” I asked.
My client chuckled, softly. “Well, I believe that’s pretty obvious, considering the fact that I now know the way I have been going about things will never work or provide the experience and outcome I want – for myself or my team.”
“Nice,” I said. “That’s excellent awareness. I’d also like to offer, perhaps, an even better definition for empower based on today’s conversation and for you to consider moving forward:
Empower – to allow and offer opportunities for the power of others to be recognized, honored and utilized in healthy, fulfilling, and productive ways.”
“Oh, I like that,” said my client. “I’m writing that down now!”
I smiled. “It asks of you to think in terms of how you set up your communications, operations, protocol and engagements to be in alignment with this definition. Creating community is different from creating a rulership. As we look at this through the lens of what we have discussed, it’s not about giving someone else the authority or power to do something, when what we are really looking at is the sovereign power of another. We simply do not have this control, and we need to see this if we want to establish a culture of buy-in, ownership and ultimate sustainable growth where everyone has and knows their value and their rightful zone of genius. It’s not force or control that can provide this; it’s empowerment.”
“I can truly see that now,” my client said earnestly. “More importantly, I can feel it. I look forward to discussing and developing ways to shift the control paradigm in my own approach to things. I want to show up better and reserve my energy for where it can be best utilized and where it provides the highest contribution.”
“And your team, family and the world thank you,” I said.
We both laughed.