Recently I was in a discussion with a contractor about rain gutters for my home. I had a lot of questions about moving water systematically away from the house, and ideally, into the yard. The conversation was empowering, and I made the decision to hire this company on the spot. It was my second conversation about the problem, and the first person left me feeling powerless. What was the difference?

The first person relied on his role as an authority to tell me what I needed to do. He was polite, clear, and well-intentioned. And, completely un-educating. I didn’t know any more after we met than I did before, other than his company could solve my problem. The second person began by asking what problem I was solving–not making any assumptions. Then, he worked with me to solve it.

This is leadership. How often are you relying on your position as the authority for the request (or demand) you communicate? When someone responds to you because of your role you get your answer, solution, etc. As leaders we celebrate that the goal has advanced, or the project is completed. I wonder what we might miss.

When we empower our team to create the solution, achieve the outcome, or develop their skills we receive the benefit of engagement, and the joy of feeling successful that propels people to look for unspecified obstacles and places where efficiencies could be advanced. Hence, my new rain gutters will not only move water away from the house, they will also water my yard. And, I’m jazzed about the solution.

So, next time you are in a position to exercise authority, give the gift of empowerment and partnership.