“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu
Gaining buy in and genuine, authentic engagement of staff are essential elements of empowerment. When staff are trusted and feel a sense of ownership in their work, great things happen for them and the organization. Here is some management advice that I was fortunate to learn early in my career. Several of my mentors admonished me to consider each of the following ten principles. Many have been reinforced along the way in any number of articles I have read, speeches I’ve listened to and workshops I’ve attended. I hope that you experience the same impact when you implement these principles. I found that these strategies have helped me create work environments in which people are empowered, productive, contributing and happy. I learned along the way that to do anything less would hobble them and limit their ability to fulfill their professional and personal potential. Furthermore, I learned that to try to control them or clone them to be “mini mes” was futile and wrongheaded. I challenge you to consider these 10 principles, trust your people to do the right thing then get out of their way and watch them soar.
1. Value people. They are your greatest investment
Your regard for your staff is transparent in all you say and do. Your daily demeanor, attitude, body language and your interaction or lack thereof express the value you place on the people who report to you. Make it a priority to show that you appreciate colleagues and associates and the gifts they bring to the table. Make no mistake, your actions are always a visible reminder of the value and regard you have for them.
2. Share leadership vision
People must feel that they are genuinely part of something bigger than themselves and what they do. The organization’s mission, vision, and strategic plan must be shared with all and clearly viewed as the key driver of the organization.
3. Share goals and direction
Share the most important goals and objectives of the company with your team. It is critical to report progress that is being made on goals via measurable and observable means. Share your pride in their success and the success of their work. Remember, too, that truly empowered employees can be very successful without close supervision.
4. Trust people
Trusting people to do the right thing, to make good, honest decisions and choices that may not be what you would’ve done more often than not will yield the same results. Performance and outcome are the keys. How people approach a task is not what is most important as long as it is legal, moral and ethical. Employees should expect, if not demand, clear expectations from their manager. To be given less, they become uncertain, overly cautious and lose focus and energy. They wonder, worry and second-guess themselves and the leadership of the organization.
5. Information for decision making should be shared not coveted
Simply stated, “Knowledge is power.” Make your people powerful, understand that there are no secrets. Be sure that they have access to all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions.
6. Practice smart delegation
Use the skills of the collective team. The knowledge and skill of many are better than yours alone. Don’t just dole out busy work. Share power and authority in ways that will impact opportunities for the individual as well as the organization. Your plate will be less full so you can concentrate on contribution. Your reporting staff will gratefully shine – and so will you.
7. Feedback don’t “feed off or on”
Why is it so hard for managers to understand that frequent feedback is essential so that people know how they are doing? Don’t catch them doing something wrong; catch ‘em doing good things. Remember, the purpose of feedback is reward and recognition, improvement coaching as well as continuous learning and professional growth. People deserve your constructive feedback so they can continue to develop their knowledge and skills.
8. Be a problem solver, not a problem finder
When a problem occurs, ask what is wrong with the work system that caused the people to fail, not what is wrong with the people. Worst case response to problems? Seek to identify and punish the guilty. Develop the mantra and belief that all employees want to succeed; some need more help than others.
9. Listen, learn and probe to understand
Research has shown that 80% of the spoken word is not heard. Everyone can benefit from better listening, especially the people in charge. Managers must become listener role models. Use quality questions to initiate the communication. Listen actively to them and ask them focused learned questions. For goodness sake do not tell adults what to do. Do you like people telling you what to do? Think about most people, if they know what is expected of them and they have the opportunity will perform to the best of their ability and produce quality results. If a problem is posed for you to solve, ask, “What do you think you should do?” Or, ask, “What do you recommend?” Good managers build trust in their employees and their judgment.
10. Be a servant leader
The concept of servant leadership starts by being a servant first. A servant leader must first learn to serve before taking on a leadership position. Servant leaders must focus on the wellbeing and individual growth of followers. People will not follow a leader until he/she shows genuine interest in them.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
–John Quincy Adams