Empower your people!

By learning to let go

How often do you see leaders trying to do it all? My friend Claire is a middle level leader and has been super successful in her career up until now. Over the past few months the organisation she works for has restructured and she is now leading two teams. I have spoken with her a couple of times since the change was made and each time I become a little more concerned about her health and wellbeing. You see, when the change was implemented, Claire didn?t stop to consider how she was going to approach her expanded role, she just picked up the pace and did things all the same things, just a little quicker.

This approach isn?t sustainable and in our last conversation I warned her that if she didn?t take care of herself she might spontaneously combust! Her long hours, endless emails and constant meetings were making her less effective and she had found herself becoming snappy with her existing team.? Claire?s desire to take on everything was fast becoming a bottle neck in the business creating frustration across both teams, peers and stakeholders.

So, what should Claire do? Doing everything was no longer sustainable and going back to the old structure wasn?t an option. This was a critical time in her career and the approach she took would determine her suitability for future roles in the organisation. To me, there was only one solution to her problem, and this was to empower her people to take on some of the work. By doing this she would be free to work on the strategic direction of the team and start to build on their capabilities.

If you?re a little like Claire, and need to empower your staff but don?t know where to start, here?s ten steps to get you moving:

Step 1: Have a firm word with yourself. Get over needing to be in control of everything all the time. It?s not going to lead to success and no one will thank you for it. Set your ego aside and have faith in the ability of your people.

Step 2: Make a plan. Set your people up for success. Too often I see leaders who ?empower? their people by giving them a task, often that?s outside of their capabilities, and leaving them to it. Inevitably they fail and the leader uses the event as a reason not to empower them again in the future ? thus reinforcing their need to micro-manage. Make sure your people have the right skills and knowledge to perform the task or know who/how/where to get it.

Step 3: Get over your desire to do it ?your? way. There?s more than one way to peel a banana and none of them are wrong or better than the other. As long as the banana is peeled at the end then the process is irrelevant.

Step 4: Get clear on the outcome – not on the process. What does the end state look like and are there special considerations your staff need to be aware of before commencing the task.

Step 5: Establish up boundaries. Let our staff know what they can and can?t do. I love the advice given in this Forbes article on giving your employees generous boundaries. Author, Bruce Kasanoff says that ?contrary to conventional wisdom, boundaries don’t restrict team members; they empower them. Define the boundaries within which an employee can make his or her own decisions. In doing so, you give them freedom to act.?

Step 6: Set expectations around timeframes. When does it need to be completed and how would you like to be kept informed of the progress?

Step 7: Be accessible. Make sure you?re available, if asked, to offer support and guidance along the way.

Step 8: Trust them. Believe in their ability to give the task the right level of attention and won?t let you down.

Step 9: Get out of their way. Once they?re set up, let them get on with it. Avoid trying to take over or get too involved in the process.

Step 10: Finally?Back them. If they get it wrong, support them through the consequences and help them take lessons for next time.

This process takes time to set up but gets quicker and easier over time and is well worth the investment.

Empowering your staff will build their confidence, their skillset and their motivation. More importantly, it will free up your time to work on the things that matter most and allow you to evolve as a leader.

Need help? Give me a call.


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