Appreciation and Empowerment
The multi-dimension approach to empowerment that we have described in this essay is appreciative in at least five different ways. First, this multi-dimensional approach to empowerment brings out the latent strengths and resources of all group members. Using this approach, one begins with the assumption that each group member has skills, knowledge and aptitudes that can be of great benefit to the group. Given this assumption, it is imperative that group members appreciate these talents and that the environment of the group is conducive to the display and nurturing of these talents. Just as negative assumptions can be self-fulfilling, so can positive assumptions regarding strengths and competencies. Effective and empowering group leaders discover and foster talents in all members of the group—including themselves!
Second, the approach presented in this essay recognizes the multiple leadership roles that make a group effective and empowered. Everyone can be a leader in certain areas of group functioning, at a certain time and in a certain place. Andy Warhol once suggested that each of us is famous for fifteen minutes. While this may be a bit of an overstatement mixed with profound cynicism, it is possible, from an appreciative perspective, for each member of a group to find herself in a leadership role at some point in the group’s life. The group members have only to acknowledge this leadership role and to allow it to emerge and be honored by the group.
Third, an appreciative approach to empowerment recognizes not just the multiple leadership roles in the group but also the many other contributions to be made by group members. In recent years, we have come to recognize that people possess multiple competencies, and that these many different competencies are often unacknowledged in our society. One of these forms of intelligence, often called emotional intelligence, has been acknowledged as particularly important in all organizational settings and, in particular, in group settings. Members of a group must be appreciated for all of the talents “they bring to the party,” not just those that are most visible and commonly honored in our society, such as technical and analytic skills, decisiveness, and perseverance.
Fourth, an appreciative approach is embedded in the emphasis being placed on not just generating ideas but also moving these ideas to action. Empowered groups are always leaning into the future and seeking ways to translate items of discussion and dialogue into steps toward realization of clearly articulated intentions, based on shared information. Effective empowerment means business. Empowered employees who are appreciated by their organization are expected to influence their own individual future and the collective future of their organization. As a result, appreciative empowerment tends to add pressure to group members rather than reduce pressure.
Finally, the information we have presented regarding the empowerment of groups is appreciative in that it enables the reader to better understand and appreciate the subtle and often complex dynamics of groups in which they participate. Contemporary group dynamics researchers and experienced group facilitators have provided us with many valuable insights and suggestions regarding effective and empowering group structures and processes. As we gain a fuller appreciation of the group dynamics literature, we can more readily embrace the complex drama of group life, while also learning how better to influence the outcomes of groups in which we participate.