Tag Archives: risk

Stop waiting for the empowerment fairy

Recently I have had a number of conversations where people have said they are not empowered. And leaders should empower them.  They were waiting.  Waiting. Waiting.

I wondered what their picture of being empowered looked like. Would they be sprinkled in magic dust by the empowerment fairy and suddenly they had all they needed to achieve what they wanted?

Gloria Steinem says: Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.

Steinem’s quote resonates for me.  The process of empowerment is messy.  It takes grit, risk and determination.  You may have to upset the applecart. You certainly face hearing rejection.  You also risk being successful.

We are not handed power.  Each leader must make their power legitimate.  A stroll through English monarchs reminds us that even a birthright is not a right.

Stephen Covey talks about circles of influence and circles of concern.  When we focus on changing things in our circle of influence our power grows. When we focus on all the things outside our circle of influence that circle of influence actually decreases!  By constantly looking at what we feel we cannot change we become victims.

If you are waiting to for the empowerment fairy, why not try this experiment? Ask yourself:

  • Are you really waiting for?
  • What is in my circle of influence?  How will I expand it?
  • Who can help me?
  • Who will I help?

Would love to hear your stories.



Have you learnt to fail in a perfect world?

With many children returning or starting school this week, my mind has turned to how we learn.  In particular, how and when we learn to fail.

At early years, our kids learn that getting something “wrong” is bad. Our brains are wired to listen to fear more than reward and we play it safe. So, it is no wonder that when we get to the workplace we arrive with a strong aversion to failure.

We are surrounded by systems that demand perfection. We want customers to have a perfect experience – 100% of the time. We want products that are perfect or we want a refund.  We want shareholders to get healthy and ever growing dividends. We want trains to run on time. Our “reality” TV “actors” have white teeth and wake up perfect hair.  Our Facebook poses must be perfect and natural.  Even our bananas have to be blemish free.

Yet the enduring adage of successful innovators is to fail fast, fail often, fail forward, fail cheap, ….

Learning to fail takes self awareness, self control, reflection, humility, resilience, humour, graciousness, vulnerability, patience and an appetite for risk. Sometimes, failure can be served with a side dish of anger, frustration, self loathing, shame, guilt and sleepless nights.

Our reality is that we are caught in a conundrum – working in a system that generates operational excellence to be successful today but knowing we must innovate (and fail) to be successful tomorrow.  We have to be ambidextrous.  It takes wisdom to know when to be “perfect” and when to fail.

  • When did you last fail?  What did you learn? How did you respond?
  • Who have you shared your failures with?
  • Do your team know when they can fail?  What do they think your response to their failure would be?
  • What have your taught your kids about failure?