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Learn How to Empower Your People

During a recent leadership training, I facilitated a seminar with twenty organizational leaders. I asked them the following question: 

“When I think about delegating, I worry about ______________?” 

They were asked to fill-in-the-blank on a sticky note and place it in the middle of the room. 

We then took a tour around the room and discussed the responses. Overall, the leaders’ concerns fell into 3 key categories: 

Time Management

  • “Being done on time.”
  • “Missing deadlines.”
  • “The job getting done.”
  • “Being done in a timely manner.”
  • “It getting done.”
  • “Completing the task on time.”

Quality Management

  • “Being done correctly.”
  • Lack of attention to detail.”
  • “Quality of work.”
  • “Completing the task correctly.”
  • “Being done right.”
  • “The work being focused on the right things.”
  • Loss of focus on the mission.”
  • “Capacity.”
  • “Follow through!”
  • “Consistency.”

Personal Perception & Reaction of Others

  • Will it be done at least 75% of how I would do it.”
  • “How it will be communicated to stakeholders.”
  • “Looking like a slacker.”
  • “How much better they will do it than I will.”
  • “Done the way I want.”
  • “Not having a say.”
  • “Employees presenting in a negative tone.”
  • “They won’t have the background they need and I will end up doing it anyway.”
  • “They won’t ask for help even though they don’t know what they are doing.”
  • “Others not being happy with the results.”
  • “Putting too much pressure or a burden on them.”
  • “Overloading others.”

Trust and Training 

The responses identified from the exercise were of no surprise to me. Most, if not all of these responses, rely on two things: trust and training. 

I believe that trust is the glue that holds leaders and followers together.

Many leaders (me being one of them) struggle with trusting individuals to carry out even the simplest of tasks in their organizations. We justify this by saying we love being the “doer” or we do not want to burden others. We believe that if you want it done right, do it yourself. The truth is: we have not learned to trust our team. We are not concentrating on being visionary as we are focused on repairing what appears to be broken.

As a result, we spend countless hours working on unimportant tasks outside the normal workday and losing credibility with our people (personally and professionally).  

Building Leaders 

Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden and creator of the Pyramid of Success said, “The man who puts the ball through the hoop has ten hands.” 

How would you answer these three questions? 

  • If your organization lost its top three leaders, what would happen? 
  • How quickly would you be able to fill their roles internally? 
  • How long would your organization maintain its current productivity?

The key to successful leadership is turning your followers into leaders.

Leadership and management guru Peter Drucker shared, “No executive ever suffered because they had too many leaders in the organization.” Yet, I have found that building the leadership capacity of others is not a common practice in most organizations. One sure sign that you are successfully building leaders in your organization is that you feel comfortable empowering team members by delegating important tasks. 

Five Steps to Training Leaders

John Maxwell teaches five easy steps in his book, Developing the Leaders Around You, to build the leadership capacity in others:

Step 1: I do it and you watch me (Modeling). Be sure to start from the beginning.

Step 2: We do it together (Mentoring). Explain the how and the why of each step.

Step 3: You do it and I coach you (Monitor). Assist in the process. Have them explain the steps.

Step 4: You do it alone (Motivate). Critical that you stay with them until they feel like they got it.

Step 5: You teach someone else (Multiply). This is the most exciting stage in the process.

One particular area where I have failed in using these five steps is in Step 1 (Modeling) and forgetting to start from the very beginning. I often assume that since team members have seen the completed work in the past, they can figure out how to begin a similar project on their own. As a result, the project does not achieve its goals or falls behind schedule. I falsely question their competence or dedication and feel I must swoop in to save the day! 

Successful Leadership  

Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished alone. When I forget that my success depends on the skills and confidence of those around me, our entire organization struggles. Throughout the process of building leaders, you may find that you need to reteach certain steps and clearly re-communicate your vision until the project is completed. Sometimes, leaders get too caught up in the managing and forget to cast the vision and celebrate the wins.

Choosing the Right Leaders

Just as important as choosing the right tasks to delegate, you must choose the right leaders to invest in. When looking to grow the right leaders, focus on team members with the following attributes:

Character: This is the first attribute to look for in any kind of leader or potential leader. Nothing is more important than strength of character. Serious character flaws cannot be ignored. They will eventually make a leader ineffective – every time. Character flaws (i.e. dishonest, not accountable, inconsistent) should not be confused with weaknesses. Weaknesses can be overcome through training.

Influence: Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less. You must be able to determine if this potential leader is going somewhere and whether people will follow him/her. In order to determine this, ask yourself these questions: 

  • What is the leader’s level of influence?
  • Who influences the leader? 
  • Does this leader follow the right people? 
  • Who are their mentors and influencers?
  • Whom does he influence? 

Remember 9’s don’t follow 6’s! Be sure you choose someone who can influence the highest leaders in the organization.

Positive Attitude: People with positive attitudes are able to get where others cannot. They understand that the journey is just as delightful as the destination.

Excellent People Skills: Without people skills, any leader will soon be without followers. This begins with the ability to understand others, and the choice to make positive interaction with others a primary concern. Your behavior towards others will dictate their behavior towards you.

Proven Track Record: Experience dealing with challenging times is critical in the development of leaders. Leaders with a proven track record understand that being able to execute a desired outcome stems from reflection on previous experiences as well as learning from others.

Confidence: People will follow confident people because they know there will be winning going on! Being confident is as important as being positive.

Self-Discipline: If you cannot lead yourself you cannot lead others. Two areas you should focus on are emotional reactions and time. How do they react when times get tough? Do they complain down or find solutions? Can they keep their cool when they are challenged?

Effective Communication Skills: There is nothing more important in a leader than the ability to communicate with clarity in a variety of mediums.

Discontent with the Status Quo: Great leaders are never satisfied with the current situation they are in.

Call to Action

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. As an organizational leader, your job is already filled with interruptions, fires and administrative paperwork. Doing less meaningless work, so you can focus on the most important things, is NOT laziness. Do not sacrifice production for your ego. By teaching other members of your organization to maintain your voice during those challenging periods, you will be able to focus your time working on the business instead of constantly in the business. Not only will your professional life begin to feel more successful and liberating, your personal life will also improve. You will have more time to fill your heart, and calendar, with family, friends, and recreational activities. 

This blog was written by Dr. Thomas Miller. Leadership coach, trainer, speaker and consultant.

If you are curious about uncovering hidden challenges or pitfalls that are sabotaging your success or slowing you down or creating a clear vision for your ultimate success so you know precisely what you want, where to go, and how to make it happen set up a complimentary discovery session with Tom by clicking here or emailing [email protected].

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