In my last post, “What’s the Difference between Empowering and Enabling?” we laid out the story of “Jeff” and the line at his door, everyday. And, everyday, Jeff was working until way into the evening while his people left at 5 or 5:30 and waived goodbye to Jeff. Imagine how that must feel?
As you’ve already gathered, Jeff was enabling his employees to remain dependent on him for all the answers. No wonder they kept lining up at his door. They didn’t have to think for themselves. They didn’t have to worry about being wrong or taking risks. They didn’t have to worry about displeasing their boss. They didn’t have to be accountable for their actions. They just asked him what to do, and he told them. Easy!
But they were stagnating, and Jeff was exhausted.
So of course I reminded him of the fish story. Jeff was standing in his office, handing out fish every day, instead of developing his people.
Here’s a domestic example. If you’re a parent, and your six-year-old leaves her socks on the floor every day, and you pick them up, what’s going to happen? Of course, she’s going to keep dropping her socks on the floor. As long as you tolerate it, and even “enable” it by cleaning up after her, the behavior will continue to happen. The same is true for any behavior, at work or at home.
Sometimes, the managers and leaders who have the most trouble learning to empower, rather than enable, are those with high standards. Many subscribers of this newsletter, readers of my books, as well as some of my clients probably fall into that category. You want things to go well, and you know exactly how to do it, so… it seems easier to just do it yourself. But, of course, you know deep down that this is not in your best interest, nor in the best interest of your people.
Here are some principles to keep in mind as you practice empowering your employees:
• Be willing to invest time in delegating and helping your people do it right. A little investment now will reap big returns later. No time? Then don’t delegate. But keep in mind, if you don’t have time now, chances are you won’t have time later.
• Be clear about the results you want to achieve. Delegate the objective, not the procedure. Your people may find a more efficient way to get the job done. Don’t miss that opportunity by over-managing.
• Your people need and want new challenges and responsibilities. These help them to develop professionally, and increase the likelihood that they’ll stay with your company as they continue to grow.
• If the people working for you are not living up to their potential, it’s a waste of human resources. Most of us are conscious of not wasting oil, water, food, paper, and other natural resources. Wasting human resources is just as harmful.
• As a leader, you need to perform at your highest level. You can’t perform at your highest level if you remain mired in duties that rightfully should be done by others. And if you’re not fulfilling your potential, then you’re wasting the company’s resources, too.
I’ll remind you of the five promises of The Accountability System: improved morale, increased productivity, fewer disciplinary problems, more meaningful performance reviews, and enhanced relationships.
All that can be yours when you begin to shift from enabling to empowering. Accountability will then become an integral part of your workplace, as ordinary and expected as lunchtime and payday.
And what’s in it for you? Less stress, more time and a better bottom line.