I recently coached a wonderfully talented and experienced senior manager who had just started a new role at a large international company. The job was well paid, close to home and well within her skills levels. When Mary landed the role she was excited at the potential the opportunity presented to really contribute to the success of the organisation.
Three months on and she was on the verge of handing in her resignation. Why? Mary was bored and was feeling under utilised and under valued. She was going into work and carrying out duties that she did not find challenging or stretching. Mary had been bought in to help set up and run a new department in the company which involved selling a new service to a section of the market that were unfamiliar with it and the benefits it could bring. This challenge tied directly into her previous experience, but instead of being given the freedom to shape and influence the direction of the department she found these decisions being taken at Board level by people with no real experience in this area.
Mary was going home each day boiling with frustration, full of ideas on how to improve performance that were being ignored by Directors who had fixed views on what should be done based on little more than emotion and anecdotal evidence.
Sadly this is a fairly common picture up and down the country with Business Leaders not prepared to “take the risk” of creating an environment and culture which allows talented people to flourish. Too often Leaders feel the need to keep control in the belief that they should know best and have all the answers to the issues faced by the company.
Instead Leaders should be looking to empower their people whenever possible. To do so isn’t to abdicate your responsibility as a Leader, instead it’s an opportunity to recognise the importance of your team members and give them a platform to demonstrate their potential. As a result your people will feel valued and their commitment and loyalty will increase.
Here are 6 tips on how to take the first steps to empowerment:
1) Clearly define their responsibilities. Unless people are absolutely clear what is expected of them, there is the chance they will fail to meet expectations and also will not understand why. This will breed resentment and uncertainty, a recipe for disaster. Do they know what success looks like?
2) Give them authority equal to their responsibilities. Having defined their role and responsibilities allow them to make the necessary decisions within that remit. Constantly asking for permission on minor issues only serves to decrease morale and drive.
3) Give them knowledge and information. Information is power and open communication and sharing of appropriate levels of information is important to ensure people feel valued and able to contribute effectively.
4) Trust them. Giving them responsibility involves letting go of the apron strings. Discuss and agree outcomes and then let them get on with it, letting them know where you are should they need help and advice along the way.
5) Give them permission to fail. If they never take risks, they will never grow. There are many opportunities on projects etc for people to fail that aren’t catastrophic to the overall goal. By allowing people to fail, they can learn and develop their decision making skills. Remember what happened when you made mistakes? What did you learn?
6) Recognise them for their achievements. This is a critical part of the process. If they don’t receive praise and recognition for their performance, where is their incentive to strive and challenge themselves?
How many of these 6 steps are you already practising?
If you were to ask your staff how empowered they feel, what do you think they would say?
What more could you do?
Mary? She decided to have a meeting with the Directors and challenge them to follow the 6 steps above. Three month later, Mary is happy in the role, and the department is now starting to take great strides towards achieving the agreed goals. Surprising how much can be achieved with open communication and a frank exchange of views….