As I work with bright folks in business and in projects that engage their brilliance, I find a continuing theme that must be dealt with as a boundary in life: enabling versus empowering behaviors. In the classroom, when I was a teacher, the difference was very clear to me. An enabler allowed an objective to be met without expectation or regard to whether or not the one receiving the met objective needed to be independent in that function to grow. An empowering person assisted the learner in learning, perhaps provided shadowing, support, or at first a hand to follow as a new skill was attempted, but very quickly had the joy of seeing the learner independently do the action required to grow. The objective was for independent success that was self driven.
Which person are you in the lives of others?
Learning is a natural part of who we are. Some of us tell ourselves that we cannot learn this or that, we become convinced by our own words and experiences that this or that is easier to learn or we’re just not good at something else. As an educator I am more likely to say “bah humbug” to those statements. Learning to learn is simply that. We all must figure out how it is that we acquire new knowledge and skills sets best. Personally if you give me a verbal set of directions, you can pretty much be assured I’ll be coming round the mountain multiple times and I may even think the scenery is new the first five times. Meanwhile, if I read or write the same directives when given, I’ll most likely only round that mountain two times and I’ll get it on the third. We all have modalities of learning that we learn more easily through, do you know yours?
If you have to tell me the directions every time I need to go somewhere, will it not be a long life if I don’t learn to do it myself independently after a trip or two? As the saying goes, doing such a thing will not only annoy the bear you’re trying to teach to dance, but the bear may not only be annoyed, you’ll be annoyed with the bear. All of us appreciate assistance, but none of us prefer to have to assist when the person being helped/taught/enabled has the ability to do for themselves what they seek others to do for them. In the country where I am from, not handling responsibilities of your own is called laziness or disrespectful behavior. Sometimes its manipulative, other times its simply poor habits that folks have taught themselves, that repeat often in their lives under a bigger theme of lessons unlearned like how to live in integrity.
We all prefer to engage people who “get” the learning regardless of the area of life. We all prefer to work with others who value and respect our time, efforts, assets and their own.
Have you considered stopping the sharing, telling, teaching, and training of your friend/client/child and look past where you are with them. What are you consistently doing over and over again with them? What mountain are they rounding as though lost, or unaware that there is a way out of it? Is it over spending? Is it lack of preparation for an event? Is it anger management? is it personal/professional skills in speaking? When we identify what skill or experience is missing we can more likely empower someone to identify or become aware of the learning needed and take appropriate steps.
In the classroom, an effective instructor pre qualifies where the lesson begins. How many times are we attempting to empower someone from a positional experience they are simply not ready for? Are you careful to gauge whether or not you are assisting in personal/professional growth or facilitating success in a way that is not repeatable for the person in front of you. The questions I consider in my work with learners when they are seeking assistance are:
- What is the objective that is being identified as the goal/success/action to be completed?
- Is there a known system of steps to create that objective?
- Does the person/company have in place a breakdown of processes to achieve that goal?
- Where in the process is the system slowing/disconnecting/self destructing
- What skill sets are required to facilitate the processes of the system
- If the processes and system skill sets seem to be in place, have I walked through the entire group with them as though I am the client/customer/sales target or event being experienced?
- Is an appropriate level of value being placed on each component of their system/process?
- Is the system/objective appropriate to the current concern, objective, or on-going success?
- What can be purchased/hired out/facilitated while skills are being acquired, or bartered as new skills needed are identified and obtained?
- Is an appropriate amount of time being allowed and is there a check for understanding component to the learning as well as an understanding of how long each skill set should take to be obtained?
- Are learning styles/modalities being considered before choosing training/software/purchased education or assistance?
- At the end of the newly learned process and practice will the objectives for independent implementation be profitable or is this a task that simply has to be allowed to be done by an area expert, serviceman, or facilitator (is this too expensive for that person to learn to do in times of money, time spent, and value for labor extended) Will the time invested be appropriate for the role the person performs in their position?
Systems management is important in our lives. Systems management in an entrepreneur’s life is essential for survival. So often as we begin, our friends, cohorts, and mentors may assist us with their experience and knowledge to know how to begin or to assist with skill they can barter or freely give to us to assist us. It is my experience though, that even when gifting experience or skills, without further educating the receiver of the value of the time/energy/gift received, the effort becomes enabling, not empowering to the receiver
When we enable others we take away their power to own their success. When we enable others our own ability to engage excellence is hindered by the conflict of alignments of helping versus hindering. Integrity demands that alignment of purpose, procedure and products in our lives happen. Without the alignment of our actions and objectives, frustration is created, and relationships are strained.
Are you a mentor? parent? friend? coach? Are you empowering others to be all they can be or are you enabling them to manipulate, depend upon, or continue self taught bad behaviors that are in the long run not only bad for the bear, but for you too?
We are all teachers and we are all learners. The real question becomes what is it we are teaching and what are we learning ourselves? What are we preventing others from learning? When we choose to engage in others lives are we enabling or empowering them? What are our motives in the interaction? Leaders empower the people they engage. What are you experiencing in your walk with others?