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The importance of empowerment

Chair's Message

Ben Ellingson, CPA, CGMA | June/July 2020 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated May 29, 2020

Many people know the phrase, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The concept of empowerment is simple, but when we’re all busy with the day-to-day grind of the working world, it can seem a whole lot easier to just catch the fish ourselves.

Whether in our careers, communities or at home, we often have the opportunity to empower those around us. Focusing on strengths and doing what you can to put others in a position to be successful will pay big dividends. For example, taking the time to explain how to solve a question from a colleague instead of simply providing the answer can pay off quickly, as they probably won’t have to ask you for help with it next time. However, the true benefits of empowerment are much further reaching. Enabling those around you to grow and use their talents shows your trust in them, allows them to build on their skill sets and provides for more creative and diverse solutions.

That’s why empowerment is also an important part of leadership. An organization that embraces behaviors that empower others will have higher productivity, happier teams and be nimbler and more creative. I’ve been lucky to experience this numerous times throughout my career, and when done right, it doesn’t feel forced or mandated. Once clear lines of job responsibility are established, empowering the employees or volunteers to put their skills to work without micromanaging or dictating how things should go has proven to streamline decision-making and has been very rewarding for the organization and its stakeholders.

Equally as important to remember, though, is that this doesn’t mean you simply let everyone fend for themselves. It’s important to ensure that people can reach out for assistance with questions, have opportunities for their opinions and ideas to be heard, and feel valued as part of a team. Organizations must also ensure they have created a culture that embraces continuous learning and training, teamwork, and a supportive, caring environment. These aspects combined help build a successful culture and provide opportunities for growth, personally and professionally, to all involved.

So, the next time you are thinking about just catching the fish, remember that while it may be quicker and even seem kinder to do something for someone, giving them the right tools to figure it out themselves pays off for both of you in the long run. How will you empower someone today?

MBAC 2020

I don’t have to tell you about how the best laid plans have gone awry for all of us this year. Fortunately, the MNCPA conference staff were able to convert one of its most popular and largest conferences, the 2020 Management & Business Advisers Conference, into a three-day virtual offering.
Be sure to visit to see how you can leverage this opportunity to learn, earn CPE and stay connected on the latest professional developments. New this year is an a la carte option if you’re unable to attend every session block; however, if you’re able to make all session times, you’ll earn 24 CPE credits for the price of 16!


Ben Ellingson, CPA, CGMA 
Chair, MNCPA board of directors