Some time back I was working with a leader who was having difficulty with his employees feeling empowered in their work. Ned (not his real name) was frustrated. "I don't understand it!" he stammered. "I assign tasks out, stay out of their way while they're completing the tasks, hold them accountable to dates, and praise them when the task is done well. I do all this yet my employees tell me I don't empower them. I'm ready to pull my hair out (ironically he was folically challenged)".
Several years back I conceived and funded a small business. My partner and I were very excited about the concept and had sky-high aspirations about the prospects of the business. While the idea was great, I ultimately decided to shut the business down as I felt the cost of keeping the business afloat would continue to outstrip the revenue. I'm not going to bore you with the details of the business; what I do want to do is talk with you about the decision process I went through and how the "morning after" decision making process tipped the scales for me.
So maybe you think you're all that and a bag of chips and that you can get more things done than most people in your organization. As managers, though, it's not just about you getting things done on your own; it's about you getting your team to be as effective (or more) as you.
I deliberately use the term effective versus efficient. For me, there is a very clear distinction which I believe is crucial in driving results.
In an earlier leadership role I had been striving to create focus and accountability within each of our major work areas. The team responded beautifully with doing their best to adjust to roles, to stay focused on their areas, and to minimize confusion by stepping across boundaries. They did exactly as I asked.
We were in a team meeting and I could see that there was erupting confusion around contacting customers in an effort to close some sales. There was a lot of respect for my sales & marketing manager in not stepping in on her turf when it came to customers. Where the problem arose, though, was in the fact that the team was confused as to who was supposed to be following up on some key sales activity that had begun prior to our organizational re-alignment.
Some time back I was talking with a fellow project manager about a difficult issue he was having with his new boss. The thumbnail summary of the discussion was that the project manager was feeling overly scrutinized and micro-managed. Now I knew the project manager to be a capable professional who could confidently handle the work assigned to him. Yet his boss insisted on managing every detailed aspect of his work. More so, his boss was very critical of the work being done even though it was performed to professionally acceptable standard. The situation became unbearable for the project manager; he ultimately left the organization.
During winter my hands tend to dry out and get chapped. One night when my hands felt like sandpaper I asked my wife if she had any hand lotion. "Sure, what kind do you want?" she asked. "The hand lotion kind," I said like the knuckle-dragger I am. She then handed me an ice bucket which contained the following:
Some time back I was having breakfast with a couple of guys that I work with in one of the organizations which I volunteer. In this organization, I have been leading a group of about nine men for about four months to set a vision for the group, decide upon our key focus areas, and lay out activities which the group will undertake for the next year. I was very pleased with how the team "gelled" and the fact that we seemed to be moving the ball forward towards meeting our vision. During breakfast, one of the guys told me that, by and large, the team was happy with me but a couple felt that I came in too heavy-handed and authoritarian. Blech.
My wife Patty and I some time back completed a massive renovation on a townhome in the Seattle area. The townhome was built in the late 70's and was decorated using all of the finest materials that the Disco era had to offer. The original owners liked it so much that they changed precisely nothing for the 30 years they lived there right down to the 8-track player on the guest room night stand. We purchased the townhome in late 2009 with the intention of renovating the townhome and occupying it after our son graduated high school.
Bud was one of the most brilliant people in his organization. Only in his mid-thirties, Bud amazed his senior managers with his ability to grasp problems and develop innovative and effective solutions to those problems. He was highly sought after as a "go-to" guy and would consistently come up with creative approaches. His management decided to give him a thorny project with a team of over 100 professionals. "This is my chance to really prove I can deliver", Bud thought as he willingly accepted the project.
Bud wasted no time in coming up with some great solutions which his management thought were brilliant. Expectations were sky-high and Bud was on a project high. Then the problems started.
A number of years back I was in a meeting with two HR representatives at my company.They were explaining to me how the HR organization wanted to be more “strategic” with its clients and how they wanted to help us with annual resource planning. At the time, our biggest problem was filling open positions with qualified candidates; a number of key positions had been open for months with no qualified candidates in the hiring pipeline. When I asked the HR reps about how they were going to help with this problem, they both told me that they didn’t have time to address the hiring issues because they were tasked with being more “strategic”. Needless to say, the meeting went downhill in a hurry because the HR reps were more interested in fulfilling the HR organization’s “be strategic” mandate than they were in helping me with my real-life problem.
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