Tag Archives: Boundaries

The Pain and Pleasure of Empowering


Empowering others is an investment of faith in someone and is never without its challenges. In being inclusive and exposing people to your work and thinking space, you are potentially creating a low anxiety environment for them – one that will be fruitful for co-learning and creativity. They don’t need to perform – just watch and learn. There is an equality created through inclusivity and it can be as healing and empowering for inexperienced or disadvantaged people as it is for colleagues from a first world family or society. Equality invites contribution. Commitment. Loyalty.

To relax your boundaries and allow someone to shadow you closely, as you run your business or project, provides an invaluable learning experience for them. However, when you are in an unusually vulnerable phase, too stressed or not reconciled to having your imperfections exposed to an audience, empowering this way (through inclusivity and shadowing you) is taxing. Another obstacle to being transparent might be that the independent thought and action, so implicit to being an entrepreneur, or academic or being you, can make it very difficult to trust, expose yourself more, hand over and let go. If this is the case, rather wait, because under these circumstances, your best intentions to empower and include others may turn into very contradictory behavior. Furthermore, your own mental models, beliefs, assumptions and expectations about the way the world, organizations and people work, can result in irritation or disappointment with those you are empowering through your inclusivity. That’s a sure clue to you that your mind needs to reboot. In this instance, peer feedback or coaching can be a powerful way to assist you to step back, separate, think and enjoy the merry pain of self-learning that is fundamental to your own self development.

Empowering others is more about judging people on character and not only on what they know or don’t know, where they come from or other stereotypical biases. The onset of your choice to empower and include others can be guided by:  Do they have integrity? Are they curious? Eager? Open? Do they learn fast? Do they take ownership? Do they have a heart for empowering others too? Also consider whether you can empower people without needing or expecting gratitude and appreciation. Empowerment is about teaching and learning and is no ego trip. Not everyone you empower and train will stay on. Some may leave or opt out prematurely responding to their own unique circumstances or personal dynamics.

The ideal purpose to include and empower is:

  •  To provide an opportunity for others to become familiar with the broader context in which your work happens
  • To provide a frame of reference in which others can locate their ongoing learning
  • To create the opportunity to internalize the culture, values and language of your brand or work
  • To boost their visibility and promote their ability to make intellectual and creative contributions
  • To afford them the opportunity to relax rigid boundaries so that the “real person” steps up and contributes freely to co-creation

Don’t ever underestimate the value and innovation that results from those you include, to contribute uniquely in their spheres of influence, to your business/project. It can free you up or expand your world. Furthermore, when they move on, big picture – they will continue to change the world.

 I’d like to invite you to post your views and comment to this article. 

Madeleine van der Steege

Coming up next:

One Life Changing Chance to Listen

We often have good insight into our situation and more than just an inkling of what to do. Like the well-known example of someone walking down the isle to get married while in their mind they know this is not going to work. The marriage begins with unspoken truths forming the basis.  When the marriage breaks up some time later – they remember knowing that truth. “I knew when I walked down the isle it was not going to work”. Why don’t we listen to ourselves?

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