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Leadership: Enabling Others to Act

Enabling other to act

“The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything.”

Theodore Roosevelt

As mentioned before, you cannot do your followers’ work for them. Besides, if you do their work, what are they getting paid for? You have your own work to do. This is the ultimate goal of the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership model: to develop your followers to the point where you can delegate tasks without a lot of oversight.

To be a true leader, you must enable others to act responsibly and not encourage bad worker habits by compensating for them or overlooking them. At the same time, you cannot berate a follower for trying hard but making an honest mistake. The goal of a leader is to empower others to work. To the extent that you can do this is the extent that you will be successful.

Encouraging growth in others

A positive attitude is essential to encouragement. No one likes to fail and many take it very personally. While failure should never be rewarded, an understanding attitude and positive outlook can work wonders. A child only learns to walk by falling down many times. The focus is not on the fall, but on getting up. The goal is to walk…then to run.

Meeting with an employee one-on-one is important to positive motivation. Here again, you must use the power of listening. Avoid blame when something goes wrong and focus on the reason for the failure. You may learn someone needs more training, more self-confidence, or more freedom. You may learn someone does not have the tools needed to be successful. You will never know if you don’t ask questions and listen – or worse, if you berate someone for a failure.

If someone is willfully defiant, then feel free to be stern and resolute. Take disciplinary action if necessary and document the conversation. If you allow someone to be defiant or lazy out of a misplaced concern for his or her feelings, you will be performing a great injustice against the rest who are working hard. In most cases, people really do want to do a good job and they have a sense of pride when they meet a challenge.

Creating mutual respect

You will never be worthy of respect if you don’t give respect. Respect should be given to everyone at all levels unless they deliberately do something to lose that respect.

You need to build respect in other ways as well. Be visible to your followers. Show them you are available and interested in knowing everything about what they do. Develop and demonstrate your knowledge of the organisation and details of the product, service, or operation. If you are perceived as being knowledgeable and can answer questions, you will not only earn respect, but will motivate others to learn as well.

The importance of trust

Respect inevitably leads to trust. Do what you say and say what you mean. Under-promise and over-deliver can help manage expectations. If you are given a task you know will take you one hour, say you “should” have it done in two hours. You never know when you’ll get a phone call that eats into your time or when an emergency may pop up. If you get done in less than two hours, you will be perceived as a hero. If not, you can call and apologise that it will be “a little later” without much trouble because you said you should have it done. You didn’t promise that you would have it done. If people feel they can rely on you, they will trust you.

Also let people know that you are not asking them to do anything you would not do yourself, or have done in the past. Work hard and be seen working hard. If you come in early and see others who are there early as well, stop by and simply mention that fact positively. A simple word of recognition will go a long way to earning respect. Without respect, you will never have loyalty and without loyalty, you cannot trust your followers. Without mutual trust and respect, you cannot accomplish great things.

Remember: while your people need to be able to trust you, you need to build them up to the level where you can also trust them.

Case study

Adam worked on building respect with his staff from the beginning.  He came back from lunch, and he waved to one of his followers, Catherine.  He stopped by her cubicle and asked her, “How are things going?”

Catherine sighed and said, “I’ve been trying to be innovative about this next product launch like you said, but I’m really struggling with finding a new angle.”

Adam said, “Is that the same one due by the end of the week?”

“Yes. Do you think you could get me some help with brainstorming?”

Adam assigned another follower to partner with Catherine that he knew excelled at fresh ideas and innovation.  Because he showed respect to his followers, they trusted him to let them know how projects were going, good or bad.  The problem was addressed in a quick and effective manner.

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