It’s OK to be an enabler

The word “enabler” is often used negatively, a way of describing someone who aids and abets harmful or self-destructive conduct.

During the a recent fundraising conference, consultant Simone P. Joyaux introduced the idea of staff being enablers, enabling volunteers to get and give the most from the experience. Joyaux said that volunteers, and this includes members of the board, should be able to expect good enabling.

Enabling helps to transmit the organization’s values. Further, it engages volunteers in the meaning of the organization and articulates expectations while clarifying roles and relationships. It provides encouragement and keeps communication alive; this in turn helps transform information into knowledge and learning. Enabling explains not just how, but why. It identifies and removes barriers, and it helps to develop skills.

So, what is an enabler? Joyaux said enablers have the right attitude, and they demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • Respect and trust others;
  • Are trustworthy themselves;
  • Are comfortable with diversity and complexity;
  • Welcome divergent opinions;
  • Are flexible and comfortable with change;
  • Commit to process as well as to outcome;
  • Appreciate conversation and disagreement;
  • Share responsibility for success;
  • Acknowledge responsibility for failure;
  • Balance personal ego with egos of others;
  • Persevere; and,
  • Are patient.