Empowerment Through Strengths

How Can Strengths Empower your Workforce?

Whenever I think of the word empowerment, I imagine someone with a fist in the air and head held high, looking triumphant and formidable. Remember the last time you felt that way? Being full of energy, feeling totally capable, and readily anticipating the next challenge? It was a pretty good feeling, right?

In fact, it’s more than a good feeling. Empowered people tend to have higher job satisfaction, performance, and innovation (Seibert, Wang, & Courtright, 2011). They are also more engaged at work and experience less strain and turnover (Seibert et al., 2011; Stander & Rothmann, 2010). So, if you want to keep feeling on top of the world and experience these real outcomes, leveraging your strengths is one way to do so.

Empowerment is about your intrinsic motivation toward work and is understood through a sense of meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact (Spreitzer, 1995).

  • Meaning is about whether you personally think your work is valuable.  
  • Competence is about whether you believe you have the ability to perform your work well.
  • Self-determination is about your sense of choice and autonomy at work.
  • Impact is about whether you feel you can make a difference at work and are making progress toward goals.

Really, empowerment is about how you see yourself in the context of work, and it can continually be developed to inspire and motivate you to action. Strengths are one way to help you take off.

Strengths are natural talent areas that can be developed to enhance optimal functioning (Linley, 2008). Recent work highlighting insights from expert coaches on strengths-based leadership emphasizes some of the ways strengths can support empowerment. First, strengths are energizing and intrinsically motivating (Welch, Grossaint, Reid, & Walker, 2014). This means that focusing on areas of strength helps initiate action behind this feeling of empowerment. How much more powerful and ready for action do you feel when you think about what you do exceptionally well rather than when you focus on your shortcomings?

 

The authors also found that strengths develop through relationships (Welch, Grossaint, Reid, & Walker, 2014). In other words, having others recognize and reflect our strengths helps us better know how to move forward. Our strengths can develop in dynamic and complementary ways with others, leading to higher performance. Knowing that others are affected by our strengths helps us understand the impact of our work on others and in our organizations, empowering us to continue making progress.

Finally, how a leader develops is based on their attitude toward development (Welch et al., 2014).  This means that the belief that you are competent and able to grow helps you dive into the necessary work of better understanding your strengths and how to use them effectively.  

So, how can you leverage strengths to find empowerment?

1. Start developing one strength that is valuable to you:

After using an assessment to help identify your strengths, choosing one for development not only helps make the work of development more manageable, but also more meaningful. Plus, having a sense of choice in how you develop personally and professionally can help increase your self-determination and boost your feelings of empowerment.

2. Set yourself up for small wins:

You can certainly develop your strengths, but seeing how you have progressed helps keep you empowered and motivated. Set intermediate goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. These can serve as milestones to reflect on how your new behaviors are impacting others, your work, and yourself.

These starting steps for strength development may support your sense of meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact to help you find empowerment at work!

References

Linley, A. (2008). Average to A+: Realising strengths in yourself and others. Coventry, UK: CAPP Press.

Seibert, S.E., Wang, G., Courtright, S.H. (2011). Antecedents and consequences of psychological and team empowerment in organizations: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(5), 981-1003.

Spreitzer, G. M. (1995). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: Dimensions, measurement, and validation. Academy of Management Journal, 38(5), 1442-1465. doi:10.2307/256865

Stander, M.W., Rothmann, S. (2010). Psychological empowerment, job insecurity and employee engagement. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 36(1), 1-8 . DOI: 10.4102/sajip.v36i1.849

Welch, D., Grossaint, K., Reid, K., & Walker, C. (2014). Strengths-based leadership development: Insights from expert coaches. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 66(1), 20-37.