I had the distinct pleasure of addressing the Coastal Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Military Comptrollers this last week. I love speaking engagements. It comes from growing up in Texas, where front porches are the place for sit and speaks on the topic of the day. This upbringing has greatly influenced my job as a counselor and mentor to an organization of 1200 employees. I was asked to speak in my capacity as Disability Program Manager. I saw it as an opportunity to speak on Disability Empowerment. The free crab cake lunch was an added bonus.
I opened with one of my favorite quotes from Doctor Howard Thurman, an influential American author, philosopher, theologian, education and civil rights leader in the twentieth century.
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”
You see, deep down inside of us is power. We all have it. We all want to do a great job in this life. We all have some type of knowledge and skill that can contribute to the world at large. Empowerment is about letting this power out for humankind. I shared a three part solution for managers on how their employees can let this power out, to empower their employees, and to build a better team. You can just as easily replace “manager” with husband, wife, teacher, sensei, coach, sergeant, etc. The plan works for every type of leadership role and capacity.
The book “Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute” presents three means that leaders can use to empower their subordinates. These are sharing information with everyone, creating autonomy through boundaries and replacing the old hierarchy with self-managed teams. We share information with everyone, allowing trust to be built up and involving everyone in the process by giving them a clear purpose and direction. We create autonomy through boundaries, as needed, to ensure open lines of communication and feedback are occurring. This leads to better self-managed teams. These self-managed teams move the mission forward and continue the vision well into the future.
The discussion went on to the broader vision of empowering our lives when working with those who are disabled. The combat operations this nation has endured for the last ten years has created a large population of veterans who are returning with visible and invisible wounds. Some of them need to let their power out, to be empowered. Some of us need to teach them how to be empowered. That is my path in life. I am always on the lookout for a few fellow journeyers.
I wrapped up my discussion by sharing a story from my time while I was attending the Disability Program Manager’s Course at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. I was checking in and the hotel clerk asked me what course I was attending. I told her and she relayed that she felt sorry for the “blind guy” who had reported in earlier. I asked her what she meant and she said, “You know, getting to the dining facility, around base, etc.”
I asked her if he had developed blindness while he was checking in.
I met Joe later; he is a GS-15 Disability Program Manager for one of the Federal Agencies (the highest grade you can achieve.) We had a chuckle over coffee at the Dining Facility (by the way, he did just fine navigating his way around) and he relayed his side of the story.
You see, Joe was given a second story room by that hotel clerk; in a building with no elevator, just stairs. She may have wondered how Joe was going to be able to get around, but she didn’t empower him so he could be highly productive.
By the way, Joe let some of his power out and got himself a first floor room.
Let me close with a quote. “Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you're needed by someone.”
Find your passion. Share it with others so we can all be empowered!