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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Empowerment: Such a Trendy Word


I like reading about people management. I often learn about new, at last new to me, concept which is totally hot these days. Good for me I think, I’ll learn a thing or two. The very recent one is about empowering teams.

Empower, that sound well, I guess. What should I do to empower the team? As it appears nothing new actually – I should give people authority to make their calls and painfully suffer from consequences. Is that such a novelty? Hell, no. I’ve learned that some time ago, but unfortunately I called it just good management. I just didn’t get there’s one of these buzzwords to name that.

Well, I might have simplified the definition, but depending on what you read you get different definitions anyway.

But then, wait, you can’t empower teams. What you may do, if you try hard enough, is to let people empower themselves. How to do that? Um, you have to give people authority to make their decisions and avoid undermining them. Isn’t that the same I understood as empowerment in the first place and as just a good management earlier? Oh, well.

Anyway it’s cool to know I’m already doing this thing-with-trendy-name. I may mix empowerment, inspiration and motivation though, as I was never good at naming things properly.

But you know what? Soon, we’ll hear about another thing managers should do with their teams, say kaboozling. Then we’ll hear we can’t kaboozle people and the only thing you can do is to let people kaboozle themselves. And at the end of the day it will be about giving people authority to make their decisions; about showing where they’re heading but not telling them, in a very detailed way, how they should make the very next step.

It will be about good management and/or leadership. You see? I’m not even sure myself anymore.

So next time I hear how I can’t motivate people and I should empower them, or how I can’t empower people and I should let them empower themselves or whatever I guess I’ll just kaboozle them. Should work well.

in: personal development, team management

6 comments… add one

  • Kathleen Lisson May 24, 2010, 5:26 pm

    Thanks for the smile! So many management ideas are just reworked concepts from the past. I choose to look at it with a different attitude. If making up a new buzzword can shake the I Already Know It All managers out of their complacency and inspire them to try something “new,” then let each generation of managers come up with their own ‘stories’ and reasoning for these tried-and-true concepts.

  • Margaret Meloni May 24, 2010, 6:21 pm

    It occurred to me reading this post that perhaps it is not the ideas that are new (well duh, that is what you are saying); it is that the people are new to the idea. Think about when you were a new leader and everything you may have experienced. Did anyone help you? If so – you are fortunate. If not, you might have stumbled around like many of us and grasped upon all these great new ideas – which are as you pointed out great existing ideas on how to be a leader…..

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 25, 2010, 12:08 am


    You’re right – if anything can make attitude of pointy-haired bosses we should try it. Even if it takes tons of buzzwords. On the other hand I-know-it-all managers often misuse this kind of ideas and it’s not unusual when they do more harm then they bring help.

    A fellow manager is known to blindly apply a number of ideas he learned at management trainings. And guess what, his people don’t feel empowered just because he told them they should be so. It all starts with managers themselves. If your actions aren’t aligned with things you preach buzzwords and loads of good old ideas packed into new shiny boxes won’t help.

    That’s why I think it is more important to work on basics with most of us managers than to throw in a new idea with a new trendy name. But yes, if a new name can bring back at least one crappy manager back to the right track it is probably worth the effort.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 25, 2010, 12:20 am


    I was extremely lucky when I started being a leader – I had a great role model and I was able to learn a lot from the guy.

    Actually as I look at it I went the way which I’d advise for most of aspiring leaders. I naturally learned good practices without even knowing their names or any theory supporting them. I also screwed a lot of things but it happened in controlled environment – I was just allowed to learn, screwing things and fixing them on the way. With this approach I learned basics in the first place and now I can laugh at new trendy names of good old ideas.

    But you’re right, not everyone can learn in this kind of environment. On the other hand whether inviting a bunch of new trendy names helps that much, I’m not so sure. If I was an aspiring manager and read all this stuff about management I read these days my mind would boil. All these fancy ideas, trendy names and very little clue how to bring some order into all this mess.

  • Jeff Edwards June 13, 2010, 8:30 pm

    Ecclesiastes in the Bible tells us, “There is nothing new under the sun.” I have found this text to be frustrating at times, and comforting in other times. I only recently began to apply this ideal to management.

    How were the pyramids built without F.W. Taylor telling the Egyptians (i.e., management) that workers should be specialized?

    How did Napoleon conquer much of Europe without B. F. Skinner’s thoughts on positive reinforcement?

    The names may change, but the (management) principles remain.

  • Pawel Brodzinski June 14, 2010, 1:25 am

    The funny thing is we often don’t learn for good old ideas, but we’re all hot about them as long as they’re repacked into new shiny boxes. And that’s exactly what happens with management and leadership patterns these days.

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