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The Law of Empowerment – Leadership for Contractors

Introduction to the Law of Empowerment

Greetings!  Thanks for joining us again for our continuing look at John Maxwell’s best selling book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  Each of these podcasts are taking a look at an individual law in John’s book and how the law plays into the construction and remodeling industries.  If you are listening to the individual podcasts, these laws are actually part of an entire course on Construct-Ed that looks at how these laws can be used to build better leaders in the construction industry

My name is Chris Jurin.  I am the CEO of Construct-Ed.  Construct-Ed is an online elearning community that provides education and training for members of the construction and remodeling industries.  I am serving as your guide through these podcasts on leadership as we look at John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. I am a trainer with the John Maxwell Team.  In addition, I serve as the president of a commercial roofing company as well as the president of a roof consulting firm.

In this podcast and chapter we are going to explore the Law of Empowerment.  Empowerment is a buzzword in today’s business world.  It is actually one of the most misunderstood terms in leadership.  People throw the term empowerment around in similar fashion as to how a drunken sailor spends money – or how the U.S. government spends money.  You can apply your choice of analogy!  In order to know how to empower someone, you first must understand what empowerment is.

So what is empowerment? The dictionary definition of empowerment is giving authority or power to someone to do something.  Sounds simple enough.  But, when it comes to construction and remodeling, giving someone the authority to do something can lead to dire consequences if the individual is not ready for the power they are being given.

There are three options for timing out empowering someone.  Give someone power at the right time and at the right place and they will accomplish great things.  Give someone authority too late and they feel stifled in their growth and possibly will not stay with you long enough for you to give them more responsibilities.  At the opposite end of the spectrum – give someone authority too soon and they can create more harm than good.  Premature authority without experience can leave that person causing harm to themselves or to others around them or to someone’s property.

Timing is critical.  The difference between brilliance and idiocy is often timing.  

There was a story that my dad used to share with me when I was growing up.  I was often the type of kid that attempted to do things that were reserved for older people.  I continued to challenge for more responsibility and growth.

My dad shared a fable that he had heard about a young boy who continued to bug his dad about being able to turn the horses out to pasture early in the morning.  His dad continued to say no.  He said that the son was not ready.  One morning, the boy decided that he was going to show his father that he could let the horses out.  He was going to make him proud.

He got up early that morning – before the crack of dawn.  He made his way to the stable area to turn the horses out.  As he opened the gate, the horses spooked and rushed the gate.  The boy was unable to handle the horses and they trampled him to death.

This was a case where the father knew best, he was able to see that the boy was not ready to be empowered.  The boy lacked the perspective and it ultimately cost him his life.

This is an important lesson, especially when you look at it from the perspective of the boy.  There are times where we criticize those who are ahead of us for not empowering us.  We feel that we are being held back, but in reality the leader is really saying that we are not ready.  It was not a no, it was not a yes.  It was a not yet.


Exploring the Law of Empowerment

12laws-of-leadership-for-contractors-course-imgIn the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, author John Maxwell explores the Law of Empowerment.  It is built on the thought that “Only secure leaders give power to others”.  You may be asking yourself “But what is a secure leader”?  Great question!  And how does this apply to construction and remodeling?  

There is a lot that goes into being a great leader.  And each circumstance that a leader finds him or herself in changes how that leader should react.  How do they handle their problems?  How do they build their people?  When do they empower others?  And what controls do they have in place to make sure that those that they empower do not hurt themselves, their teammates and the company as a whole?  

A secure leader in construction is someone who knows their job and knows it well.  They know their craft and they know how to complete the work at hand in a quality manner.  And they also know how to lead others to accomplish projects that they themselves could not do on their own.  They see others around them as important members of their team and not as threats to their power.  

Think about this for a moment – think about those that you have worked with.  If you have been in the industry for a time, you have run across those who have invested in you and trained, mentored and coached you.  Are you better now than when you first started in your profession. If the answer is yes, then someone has empowered you to one degree or another. These people are secure leaders – they realize the benefit of building others around them and do not feel threatened by it.  

Some of us have run into others who are not secure.  They think that in order to lead that they need to be ahead of everyone – no one can be equal to them.  John Maxwell uses the example of the old game king of the hill.  No – not the Fox TV show.  King of the hill had someone reach the summit and everyone else tried to knock him off.  He worked hard to keep everyone down.  Have you had to work in an environment where you believe that in order to succeed that you need to take that leader out?  It is a zero sum game – and one that cannot be sustained.  

Look at your own leadership style.  Are you someone who feels threatened when someone begins to grow?  Or are you someone who rejoices in seeing others grow and develop?  If you are the first, you will have a hard time empowering others.  If you are the latter, you will look for opportunities to grow those around you.


Knowing when to empower others.

Construction Trade AssociationsIn construction and remodeling, knowing when to empower others is a critical aspect of leading.  As was mentioned before, pre-maturely empowering someone can lead to major problems.  So timing is a critical aspect of empowerment.

It is important to understand the tools that are available to you as you grow in leadership.  How do we grow others and add value to them?  There are three primary tools that you should have in your toolbox.

  1. Training – we are all familiar with training in the construction industry.  Whether it is craft training or safety training or sales training, we have all encountered training to one degree or another.

Examine the root of the word – train.  What is a train?  The engine leads and the cars follow – in the same path.  There is no debate.  Training requires that someone repeat the process that they are shown.  Much in the same way, construction employees are shown a specific way and they have to repeat the process.  How to set up a ladder, how to apply a specific material – it does not matter.  Show the way and repeat the process.

This process lacks in that it does not always take into account the different site conditions that we run into.  What happens if the training did not address a certain condition and you have to work around it?


  1. Mentoring – mentoring is a bit different.  Mentoring allows the leader to show the way and to share experiences.  This builds on a long-standing tradition in construction.  A mentor trains an apprentice.  The apprentice works along side of the mentor as the mentor shares their experiences.  There is a connection between the student and the teacher as the teacher attempts to impart his or her experiences into the student.  


But what happens if the mentor does not have the experience to address the situation?  No matter how long you are in the business, you will encounter conditions that are unique.  You will be in a position where past experiences will not support you developing a solution.  


  1. Coaching – there are times when we do not know what the solution is, but because of our past experiences and our developed talent we are able to develop a solution.  We are not going to know everything that others around us and whom we lead know.  There will be others who have talents far beyond ours.  When we learn to coach, we are able to draw skills out of those who are unaware that they possess those skills.

I will use a roofing example for coaching. Think about a waterproofing detail that needs to be completed.  The team member completes the detail.  The coach asks the team member to self-critique.  They ask them to evaluate it from the perspective of a drop of water.  The team member picks their work apart, corrects the problems and then moves on to address the next detail using what they have learned.  Their learning occurred because they self-critiqued, not because someone ripped their work apart and criticized it.

Each of these types of teaching methods can be applied in certain situations in construction and remodeling.  But there are times when each is not a suitable tool.  You would not apply a coaching method to setting up fall-protection on a project site.  Training is critical, because mistakes cannot be tolerated.

Learn to use these tools at the right time and the right place to help empower and grow team members.


Why don’t leaders empower others?

Improve Employee MoraleWhy do leaders avoid empowering others?  Sensing when timing is right is critical.  But even when the opportunity presents itself, some leaders have a tendency to avoid the situation.  John Maxwell offers several reasons why leaders pull back from these opportunities.  I have added a couple as well.


  1. Desire for job security

Many believe in the scarcity mind-set.  John states that those who believe that there is a limited leadership pie find themselves threatened by team members who are moving up.  They believe that there is only so much room at the top.  

And in some cases, this may be the truth depending on the company that you work for.  If you are the owner, consider how you look at what it will mean if someone moves up.  If you work for a company where this is the mindset, you may find that the Law of the Lid comes into play here.  If the leader above you will not grow and it is holding you back, you may need to move on.  

  1. Resistance to change

We have heard a lot about change for the sake of change over the past several years.  All change is not good change.  But the one thing that is guaranteed is that change will occur and it cannot be prevented.

Those who suffer from a resistance to change are those who believe that they can keep things just as they are.  They may be close to retirement.  Things may be running smoothly as they are and they want to keep it that way.  But the one thing that they cannot do it keep things as they are.

There is an external environment to all businesses.  We cannot control what is outside of the company, but what is outside of the company can impact the company.  We must change and adapt to continue to succeed.

  1. Lack of Self-worth

There are many leaders who have a poor self-worth.  They do not believe that they are capable of performing their job.  What happens if I empower someone and then they realize that I do not know what I am talking about?

You know what you know.  You know what you don’t know.  Your followers know the same thing.  Get real with the team that you are leading.  They already know who you are.  They will be able to accept you more if you are honest and are not trying to pull one over on them.  

If you want to overcome this lack of self-worth, begin to work on self-development.  John has a tremendous book that he wrote called the 15 Irrefutable Laws of Growth.  Resources like these are tremendous resources for growing yourself and building your future.  

  1. Lack of Seeing Value in Someone

This is one that I am adding.  We need to be able to see value in others.  When we are not able to recognize value in others we are not able to empower them.  Why would we?  What would we empower if we believe they are not capable?

Learn to recognize the contributions that everyone makes.  Look for what they are good at – their areas of strength.  Focus on those areas and empower them for growth.

  1. Lack of Skills to Build Someone Else

You may feel that you see opportunities in someone for growth and empowerment, but that you are incapable of drawing those skills out.  So how do you grow someone when you don’t know how?

Build yourself.  Again, self-development and personal improvement.  Learn how to build someone else and add value to them.  Grow in your abilities by lifting your leadership lid and you will in turn add value to someone else.  


Closing –

Companies and organizations grow only when their teams grow.  If you are an owner of a company and you find yourself still doing all of the activities that are needed to grow the company, you need to take a look at what you are doing to grow yourself.

Empowerment in construction comes through applying a combination of training, mentoring and coaching.  Build these tools in your leadership toolbox and look for opportunities to apply the tools in order to add value to your team members.  

As John Maxwell states in this law, “Enlarging others makes you larger”.  This can be extended to say that enlarging your team members makes your company larger.  If you want to increase your footprint, you must empower your team members at the right time and the right place.

The John Maxwell Team has outstanding resources for helping you develop your leadership skills.  These skills can be developed in a way that will help you in both your professional and personal lives.  I would suggest that you look at resources including the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  You can access the online store for order these resources by going to the following link: http://www.johncmaxwellgroup.com/christophorjurin/  

Click on the Products tab which will take you to the John Maxwell Team online store.  Search for the content on the site or take time to browse the online store.

Thanks for tuning in to our discussion on the Law of Empowerment!  If we can answer any questions for you on leadership topics, please feel free to list them below and we will do our best to get some answers for you.

Check out Construct-Ed for more training and education resources related to leadership in construction.



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