“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” ~Peter Drucker
The essence of empowering your staff is letting THEM work toward a goal in the way that THEY feel best. They know what will work for them and by human nature will take the most efficient route to task completion. Please take note that YOU are not a part of the conversation at this point. YOUR job should have been done before this, by instilling passion, providing tools, and giving direction. Once this is done, the best managers get out of the way as much as possible. All we would end up contributing is a way to completion that would benefit US, and since we’re not doing the work, that’s irrelevant.
Even if you haven’t done the work of passion, tools and direction as of yet, I recommend you still get out of the way RIGHT NOW to both empower your people immediately and free up more of your time so you can work on that passion, tools and direction work you now have.
Don’t know how to get out of the way? Try these three things first:
Eliminate “My Way” – Instead of assigning a task and telling the person what to do, try asking them how they think they should do it BEFORE you throw in your two cents. Barring an obvious flaw in their logic, they win. Your staff has a 51% majority in the Congress of Task Completion. If they have any questions or need clarification, they can always come to you.
Eliminate “Toll Gates” – Most processes can be run without a series of approvals that delay the process and frustrate the worker who inevitably has to bring someone up to speed on something so they can make a decision. Instead, work off of reporting and/or a set series of criteria and standards for moving forward. Handle exceptions as the exception, not the rule.
Encourage “Majority Rules” – You can’t be there all of the time, but your team usually has each other at any moment throughout the day. When difficulties or questions arise, encourage them to come up with a solution themselves and go for it. Usually you are not so far behind in getting out of your meeting or back to the office that a poor decision can’t be mitigated or reversed and usually your staff will get it right.
Staying out of the way creates leadership, ownership and empowerment all on its own. Furthermore, by allowing your staff to do things “their way” you naturally will match abilities and preferences to the work, allowing your team to do even more. So use the three tips above to get yourself started if you haven’t already. As Lao Tzu put it “A leader is best when people barely know that he exists.”