Most people recognize that leaders have the ability to impact many aspects of an organization. One of the key areas is people, including staff and management team members at all levels. There is a perception that leadership involves guiding the masses, who, if not for the leader, might never find their way forward. This is a concept that is quite dated.
Leaders have the ability to create an organization that is empowered at every level, in terms of continuous learning, improvement, advancement, and dare we say, independence. Envision a place where staff members understand their role, take steps to perform it efficiently, apply innovation and improvement where it makes sense to do so, and strive to take on and learn more. Staff members know what to do and how to work well with others, putting their hand up only when help is needed. Micromanagement isn’t practiced here.
Instead, managers are able to free themselves from mundane and repetitive tasks that consume far too much time in a given day: the questions of what to do, who should do it, and why. Instead, they are able to focus on things that actually improve how a club functions, is perceived in the marketplace, and perhaps most importantly, where it’s going in the future. If this sounds like an elusive place that doesn’t exist, think again. It’s all a product of what empowered leadership can do.
Trouble in the Club
One of the realities of being a leader is that the higher you rise, the more people you have reporting to you. Although many might represent indirect reporting relationships that don’t actually interact with you on a daily basis, rest assured that they are out there, keeping a keen eye on how you lead. When leaders operate on a basis of insecurity, indifference, or a lack of purpose, a wide range of negative outcomes can result. Regardless, there is a missed opportunity to “leave the place better than you found it”, in terms of advancing the capability of staff and management team members and how they approach their roles.
Believe it or not, some leaders have a strong need to be “needed”; to be the referral point for all the questions, the one who provides all of the directions, and is the proverbial “smartest person in the room”. This type of approach misses the opportunity for staff members to stand on their own two feet and creates an unhealthy dependence on the leader (for both the organization and its people). Looking sharp in this type of environment actually doesn’t make you valuable; rather, such leaders are a barrier to an organization’s ability to grow and make progress.
One of the most powerful things that leaders can do is put everyone in the organization in a position to do more. Development can be fostered well when it starts at the top, as an example of how all staff and management team members should operate. Here’s how to get started on the empowerment path:
- Focus on the bigger picture. Insecurity can arise from scenarios where people feel that they are “giving up” something to someone else. Delegating some of your tasks to a member of your senior team shouldn’t create feelings of insecurity, such as “what if they do a better job?”; rather, it should increase the level of organizational performance overall, a goal in which you should find comfort.
- Establish professional development plans. Performance management shouldn’t just focus on what a staff member did in the past or where they currently are. Include an action plan of two to three items that are to be successfully learned over the next six-month period, such as taking on a new area of responsibility or completing a training program. This approach helps to keep the focus on progress that can be applied, measured, and built upon.
- Be a learning organization. Make it a requirement for all staff and management team members to commit to learning on an ongoing basis. Approaches could include taking on new responsibilities, completing courses or training programs, or mentoring a peer. Remember that teaching and transferring knowledge is also learning.
- Don’t settle for less. Seek to replace those who aren’t on board or don’t consider development to be part of their job description. Negative attitudes and opting out of what’s expected don’t just harm the role at hand, they also hold back the rest of the organization. Effective leaders can’t afford to carry this type of baggage.
- Reinforce the vision. Remind staff and management team members that your organization is a place of excellence where everyone can soar. Show them how this behavior fits with where the organization can go in the future. An environment where people see the opportunity to make progress in their role and are empowered to do so is a great place to be.
Developing and empowering staff and management team members to a level of independent competence represents an opportunity to create a lasting legacy. If you think that sounds powerful, that’s because it is! Those who have the courage and ability to make it happen differentiate themselves in the leadership arena more than they know.