I was talking with a leader the other day about the power of inclusion and empowerment. It was a specific example where a group of follower bees quickly turned into leader bees when they:
- Got it that they were being asked to make recommendations, pitch, and implement a plan VERSUS being asked for input then waiting to see what "leadership" comes up with.
- Turned on their sense of ownership and turned off their need to express their concerns, doubts, or fears.
- Felt they were being recognized at the experts and that their opinions and thoughts mattered.
- Were handed the reigns. Really empowered, not fake empowerment.
I know this is all basic stuff, but it is basic stuff we do not practice enough. How many times during the day do you have the opportunity to create OWNERS or GROANERS? As a manager, I would say that you have several chances every day to impact how people look at their work. I am thinking about all the big and small things we do on a daily basis.
Want more OWNERS than GROANERS? Here is a simple filter you can use before you make decisions, requests, or determine who will do what and the roles people will play. Basically, keep asking yourself these questions:
1. Does this build or damage trust?
2. Am I demonstrating appropriate empowerment? Who should lead this (often it should not be you)?
3. Does my request/decision make people feel like they are being parented?
4. Am I engaging people in solving important business problems? (Not just token engagement)
And really, I would look at people in nonhierarchical terms. You have a collection of resources – people with hearts and minds – who want to do great work. Be their partner. Support them. Don’t try to be their mother or father. This will backfire on you in a heartbeat (it already is – groaners only work at half steam).
I really enjoy my work, but sometimes I realize that I am being brought in to be the surrogate leader for a time to augment the owner versus groaner equation. The hope is that something good might rub off and more great work will get done. I wonder if people are really noticing the right things?
Not to stray off the topic, but as I get older and more experienced, I am beginning to question whether much of what we call OD is really just the leadership and management stuff that we are not cultivating and reinforcing within our leadership teams. Sure OD serves a function and can make a contribution, but how much of what we do is surrogate leadership? And if this is the case, how do we get some of this back into leadership?
One way, I guess, is to hire excellent applied OD types (as distinct from highly theoretical types) to manage functions and build the organization with similar skills.
OK, this is going too far from the topic.