Boss, It's Just Not Your Job
October 8, 2014
Mary C. Schaefer
TopicsCoaching, employee engagement, empowerment, people management
Thinking for your employees is not your job. Facilitating their empowerment is. Creating a culture of personal leadership is.
Sometimes I hear this from manager clients. It bugs them when their staff agrees to put a new procedure in place and then discover later that everyone has fallen back to old habits.
I’ve been there myself. You go into redesigning a process with good intentions. Then you come to find out the new process is abandoned or worse - your staff is doing both the old process and the new one at the same time. All the efficiency you hoped for go right out the window.
Why Powering Through Doesn’t Work
It's easy to think, "I guess I need to put it in my tickle file to check in and remind them more often." Uh, no.
Maybe you should just tell them they have to do it - no ifs, ands or buts. That would probably get some compliance for some period of time. But not for the long haul.
When I coach my clients the last thing I want is to add more to their to-do list, like checking and reminding. What if we look at what would make a change stick?
Boss, This Is Your Job
So many times we think we’ve communicated, but we really haven’t. We assume because we all speak the same language or because people nod their heads they get it.
Managers show up in my office complaining about an underperforming employee. They assure me they’ve had discussions. When we go over the conversations, they invariably involved a lot of talking on the boss’s part. They often concluded with a question like, “Do you understand?”
A more helpful question is: “What do you understand about what we talked about today?” or “What will you do differently based on what we talked about today?”
When Changes Don’t Stick, Be A Detective
"Let’s talk about the recent changes to our __________ process. Let me be clear. No one is in trouble. I've noticed the __________ is going this way (__________). What is preventing us from __________ like we talked about a few months ago?"
I’ve actually done this. Be clear and sincere. Ask questions. You don’t have to solve it for them. Only take action on obstacles that only you can remove. Ask questions that get people to think about what would make whatever work.
You’ll be amazed at what you learn. You’ll be amazed at how people step up when you don’t step in on what's really theirs. Guide, but don’t overdo. This is empowering leadership, and subsequently leads to empowerment.
Mary, a good line of thinking here.
I’ve noticed in my own experience that when you pull back and engage your people in both their performance, and more importantly, open-ended dialogue, they play up and really make things stick. It’s a tough step to make, but once you are aware, you can really empower people to make those lasting changes in any organization.
Thanks Paul, for commenting and sharing your experience. It’s a delicate balance but can be done.
Your article is comforting. There are bosses who really do want to empower and unleash their employees to make improvements by following through the right way because they understand the intent and the big picture. My favorite is the summarizing final paragraph.
Thanks Jane! I am heartened by how many people I DO find who want to empower their employees.
I appreciate the feedback too. Thx.