Tenet of Leadership #3: Enable your people
Larry Pendergrass - August 9, 2010
Keep decisions at the lowest possible level. When decisions are brought to you as a leader, ask if this is really a decision you should be making. Enabling your people will require reinforcement with your actions. Every day offers a chance to show your trust in their abilities. Turning down the opportunity to make a decision that others in your organization could and should make says volumes to them about your trust and your desire for their development.
This tenet goes hand in hand with the first two: Respect/trust people and manage by objective. The purpose is to get the best possible solution, crafted by those who probably know best and who are likely to have to implement the approach. In addition, enabling your people is essential to showing respect and trust, and facilitates managing by objective.
This tenet also works very well for personnel conflicts. Many workers would like to escalate issues immediately to the boss rather than engage in a frank conversation with a co-worker. Rather than allowing people to fire “missiles” at colleagues through the management chain, encourage co-workers to work out their issues directly, offering to moderate if necessary.
Years ago, I had moved into a new job in a position of some leadership authority. I was immediately faced with numerous managers asking me to make decisions that were (a) too detailed and (b) beyond my immediate ability to consider due to lack of knowledge. What I found was that my predecessor had trained some of these managers to act more as reporters, sending information up the chain and then implementing decisions, rather than acting as owners of the problem and using excellent and well-considered management judgment to proceed. These managers did not feel empowered to make decisions.
Just like any change in culture, changing this situation took some time and patience. Some of these managers made the transition to the new management style and my new expectations and some didn’t. Some left the company. But the eventual result was a powerful transformation that created many decision-making managers where before there had been just one.
It’s not enough to respect people and manage by objective. You need to enable your people to make the decisions necessary. Keep these decisions at the lowest possible level in the organization and you will get better decisions and have a more satisfied workforce.
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