|By Michael Bushong||
|July 1, 2014 06:00 AM EDT||
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.]
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" ...
Feb. 27, 2017 06:00 AM EST Reads: 6,146
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, director/senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Feb. 27, 2017 04:30 AM EST Reads: 4,296
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @CloudExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
Feb. 27, 2017 04:30 AM EST Reads: 2,229
910Telecom exhibited at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, in November 2016. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and exchanges.
Feb. 27, 2017 03:30 AM EST Reads: 2,200
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
Feb. 27, 2017 02:00 AM EST Reads: 7,548
As businesses adopt functionalities in cloud computing, it’s imperative that IT operations consistently ensure cloud systems work correctly – all of the time, and to their best capabilities. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Bernd Harzog, CEO and founder of OpsDataStore, will present an industry answer to the common question, “Are you running IT operations as efficiently and as cost effectively as you need to?” He will expound on the industry issues he frequently came up against as an analyst, and...
Feb. 27, 2017 01:00 AM EST Reads: 2,153
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
Feb. 26, 2017 11:45 PM EST Reads: 2,182
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, discussed the impact of technology on identity. Sho...
Feb. 26, 2017 11:45 PM EST Reads: 6,268
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
Feb. 26, 2017 10:00 PM EST Reads: 13,773
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum 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, New York, and 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place in November in Silicon Valley, California.
Feb. 26, 2017 09:15 PM EST Reads: 2,552
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Feb. 26, 2017 09:00 PM EST Reads: 9,055
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Feb. 26, 2017 08:45 PM EST Reads: 2,091
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Feb. 26, 2017 08:45 PM EST Reads: 5,250
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
Feb. 26, 2017 08:30 PM EST Reads: 7,268
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
Feb. 26, 2017 08:30 PM EST Reads: 903
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...
Feb. 26, 2017 07:45 PM EST Reads: 2,167
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, discussed the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports.
Feb. 26, 2017 06:45 PM EST Reads: 2,496
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...
Feb. 26, 2017 05:30 PM EST Reads: 2,344
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Feb. 26, 2017 05:15 PM EST Reads: 2,014
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum 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, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
Feb. 26, 2017 03:45 PM EST Reads: 2,776