What is the link between Empowerment and Collaboration?

What is collaboration? A collaborative culture will not occur unless people are empowered. Empowerment does not occur unless people trust, feel safe to speak their minds, and be the unique individuals they are.   

An Empowered Culture is Crucial to Engaging and Retaining People, as we Learned:  Collaboration is a fruit of an empowered culture.  Collaboration is crucial to success.   Collaboration speeds everything up.

“A collaborative culture is a learning environment, in constant motion, energizing and self-perpetuating.  A collaborative culture creates a continuous spiral of self-improvement and energy that you cannot shut down.  People share, create, innovate, and learn from one another.  A collaborative culture is sustainable!”

Look at it this way as we break it down to create understanding: 

  • Learning:  In a collaborative, empowered culture where people constantly share and work out problems and solutions as a team; everyone continuously learns from one another.
  • Constant motion: Through this continuous process of sharing and learning, people are solving problems, developing new ways of taking care of the customer and doing business, and developing relationships.  It is a culture that is continuously moving or in motion.  It is never static.
  • Engaging and energizing:  When people collaborate, share, create, and talk, they are engaged through the mere collaborative process and from intrinsic motivation. They own the process.  They are energized.  They have a sense of belonging.  The younger generations’ need for socialization is also satisfied.
  • Self-perpetuating:  In a true empowered, collaborative culture where people are engaged and constantly working together to take care of business, a cycle or spiral of continuous improvement that cannot be shut down exists.  The culture develops a life of its own.  The team, processes, and even products and services are recreated over and over. 

An empowered, collaborative culture is a living, breathing, fast-moving environment.  It is never static.  It is self-perpetuating.  It is sustainable.    

What does it mean to collaborate?   To this question, an individual we will call Dean, said, “I collaborate all the time.  To plan a project, I send an email to everyone who is involved in a project, one person at a time…” Another person asked, “One person at a time? You don’t include everyone who needs to be involved in the project in every communication?”  Dean’s response was, “Well no!  Why should I do that as long as I send an email or talk to everyone at some point in the project?”  This is not collaborating.  I call this “one-offing” and ticking people off.

In this example, collaboration occurs when every individual who needed to be involved in the completion of the project, or the entire team, was included in every communication either face-to-face, via email, or other digital means. Through this collaborative method every individual sees the big picture, helps develop the strategy, rules of engagement, and everything necessary to help the team succeed. Everyone feels connected, engaged, included, valued, respected, trusted, etc.  People have a sense of ownership.  People immediately begin sharing and working out ways to complete the project—together, not one-at-a-time.   

Dean’s method slowed everything down.  It also made people angry, disconnected, distrustful, frustrated, and any number of other not so good feelings.   And, it is highly unlikely anyone had a sense of ownership. 

In an empowered, collaborative culture, people do not wait for someone to “tell them,” they share, talk, and make decisions quickly relative to whatever it is they are working on.   

The invisible and real barriers to movement and action are nonexistent.   

Collaboration requires trust:  A Collaborative culture occurs only when people feel safe to be themselves and speak their minds.   People must feel empowered.  Trust must exist.   Collaboration requires feelings of “empowerment” and the resulting trust and freedom to be oneself.

If people do not feel safe or if they distrust, for any reason, they hesitate to speak their minds.  They will hold everyone and everything at arms-length or further.   Things move slowly because people fear repercussion for speaking up or making a mistake if they make decisions on their own or even in a team. 

In the presence of fear and absence of trust and resulting collaboration, making decisions and execution is slowed down to the point it can be likened to trying to run through a field of cold molasses. 

If people do not feel respected and valued, they may even have feelings of anger or low self-esteem. Generally, in a culture that is dominantly fear-based, individual and team confidence levels are low, thus empowerment and collaboration cannot be arrived at.

Collaboration Satisfies the Need for Self-expression, Learning and Growth, and Socialization

As you may remember, the two youngest colleagues, Gen Ys and Plurals, have a need for socialization and self-expression.  Collaboration satisfies those needs.

The pure process of collaboration in sharing freely results from a high level of trust and freedom of self-expression.  “Give me a voice.”  Socialization occurs from the process of continuous interaction with others in the team-oriented culture where people are empowered to think, make decisions, and move to action without asking permission to do so.   Freedom to express and exert oneself!

Collaboration also fills the need for constant learning and growth, and to use individual skill sets and intellectual abilities because everyone is constantly sharing ideas, thoughts, brainstorming, creating, and learning from one another.   

A true collaborative environment is also stimulating and changing, which fills another need of the younger generations—stimulation and mobility.   

Collaboration does not often occur unless people feel empowered, because they must trust to share freely.  The two are intricately linked. 

Training and Consultation Available to Help You Develop an Empowered Culture:   This Empowerment blog series is not meant to be all inclusive on what is needed to create an Empowered Culture.   Training is available either as self-paced online or live instructor led classes at your site.  Follow this link for more information at Add link.  Download the syllabus free.   Live instructor led costs are negotiable based on many factors, including location.  Reasonable and affordable rates.  Curriculum is based on years of research and proven results achieved through teaching and using the tools.   

About the Author: 

With over 30 years’ experience developing and leading teams in corporate and non-profit environments, Patricia Hatley is a skilled team facilitator who has a passion for teaming and an empowering style of leadership.  She is a leadership author and researcher, speaker, trainer and coach, focusing on developing an empowered culture which is crucial to engaging, and retaining younger generations (Gen Ys) and (Plurals or Gen Zs), in any environment and community.  Her work focuses on developing a culture conducive to engaging and retaining all people.  Her Goal is to “empower people to empower others.”  She believes that all people have a right to be treated with respect, and that developing trust, is the foundation of success today. 

She develops and delivers leadership and management training to business and industry, including serving as an Independent Contractor for community colleges.  Her work focuses on methods that work today and in the future.  A passionate and engaging speaker, she has spoken to groups and conducted training in multiple states about “5 Generations at Work: Attracting, Engaging, and Retaining Gen Ys and Plurals” for business, government, and non-profit organizations.  Her methods and curriculum are proven to be successful in creating an empowered culture.

She has a Master’s of Science in Strategic Leadership (transformational & authentic leadership), a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, studied communications, and has been coached by numerous journalists, authors and educators, as well as completing many leadership programs. A former journalist, lobbyist, and public affairs specialist, she has served in a host of leadership roles spanning her career. 

Currently a national SHRM and Catawba Valley SHRM member, Pat earned her SHRM Certified Professional certification in July 2017.   Her curriculum, “5 Generations @ Work: Attracting, Engaging, and Retaining Them,” has been approved for recertification credits by HRCI and SHRM. 

Her publications, based on over 10 years of research, including her graduate research project, include: “4 Generations @ Work: Leading from Conflict to Collaboration” (2012), “Three Things all People Want” (2013), Digital Grenades (2014), and “4 Generations @ Work: A Case of Empowerment” (2015). Training Module content is based on research and real-world applications and has been proven to be successful in developing empowered and trusting cultures.