Delivering the greatest return on investment is clearly what every business leader wants. Experienced leaders may indeed be better qualified to undertake specific tasks than most of the people on the team. Leaders presumably attained their positions in part by their outstanding performance and experience in similar roles. However, does that really make them the best person to do the job?
“If you want it done right, do it yourself!" Does that sound familiar? Heard it at work lately? Said it yourself perhaps? Did you feel motivated hearing your boss say that? Did it build any trust between the team and the boss? Does it show confidence on the boss’s part? Does the team feel confident? Do they feel empowered? Will they really go all out and do their best? What’s likely to happen the first time they make even a small mistake?
Balancing the desire to control the process and the outcome against the need to empower the organization to perform at its peak can indeed be a challenge. To be successful, a leader must learn to use their experience and expertise to direct, to guide, to advise, to motivate, and to nudge the organization toward expected objectives. In sports, a good coach functions in the same way with the players on the team. Playing the game is still the job of the team, not the coach.
A good coach learns to identify and exploit the unique talents and skills of each individual player. Then with the expertise and guidance of the experienced coach, the team is molded and shaped into a high performing and unique engine. Team members performing at heir full potential, each knowing what is required of them and how to work with the others, and all united to a common purpose will be empowered to make the best decisions and create optimal solutions to move forward. This powerful engine will drive the company toward its goals with seemingly unstoppable momentum.
Maintaining absolute control over every action and dictating how each process and milestone is to be achieved will not achieve this kind of empowerment. Leaders must learn to trust the team. They must accept that the team will often choose different approaches to solving problems or managing projects. They might even feel uncomfortable with the approach chosen as they could have done it better. This is where the leader needs to step back and look at the bigger picture. That is, how can they motivate and empower the entire organization to believe in and accomplish the goals and mission of the company?
Brushing team members aside and rushing in with both feet to personally tackle the task directly will most likely demoralize the entire team. They will not feel respected for their abilities nor appreciated for anything they accomplish. The signal is that they are not good enough. They will similarly not be highly motivated to put forward creative ideas to solve problems and move the business ahead faster. Most likely, they will crawl into their defensive shells and avoid being noticed lest their heads roll for having the audacity to make a decision or offer an out of the box idea.
The reward for empowering the team and accepting those new uneasy solutions that the team creates will be astounding. For every one of those uneasy solutions, new creative solutions and ideas will surface that never would have seen the light of day. The true innovation power and problem solving energy of all of the minds on the entire team will be unleashed. In this way the unique talents and brainpower of each team member allowed to develop and freely create without the constraints of fear, control, or humiliation.
Empowerment is what delegating is really all about. The sports coach does not delegate the job of coaching to the players. Nor does the coach delegate the job of defining the mission and setting objectives. The coach does effectively delegate the job of each position on the team to the player who must execute that position.
Business leaders likewise are not delegating the job of defining the mission and setting expectations – that is their job. The job that is being delegated to the team members is the actual work processes, projects, tasks, methods, and day-to-day activities required to accomplish the mission. The mission becomes everyone’s purpose – leader and team member alike – but each plays their unique role.
Letting go of that control lever can be challenging, and it does require a leap of faith as accountability for specific tasks and processes is shifted to someone else. Start small. This is a slow process of retraining both the leader to learn to delegate and the team to accept the accountability and freedom that comes with this new style. With each small step, both will gain more trust and acceptance and over time more steps, and bigger steps, can be taken with more confidence.
Small detailed tasks that were previously dictated in great detail and monitored very frequently can easily be managed by someone else. Let them decide what to do next and review their progress next week. Agree on the objective or expected outcomes of the process, and let them get there. Of course, as a good coach would do, don’t forget to provide frequent encouragement, direction, guidance, and advice. Then enjoy the surprise as the team shows just how much they can accomplish.
Patrick Smyth. Business advisor. Serving business leaders in managing change to improve performance. Helping leaders overcome challenges to achieve their goals and reconnect them with their dreams. 615-261-8585 www.innovationhabitude.com