Have you had this manager?
Susan put in years in her department in a variety of roles before a management position opened up. Now, as a manager, she reminds everyone on her staff that they’ve got years to go before they’ll have her level of knowledge about their operation. Her staff has stopped bringing ideas to her — she’s seen them all before, and none of them worked.
What about this one?
Eric is a perfectionist at heart — his attention to detail won him accolades for his work and landed him his management role. But most of Eric’s staff is less focused on the fine points, and therefore make more errors than he did. So Eric often finds himself closely monitoring work output, or just doing the work himself. His staff is afraid to move forward with projects without Eric’s signoff, and it’s holding up production.
What neither Susan nor Eric understand is a manager’s primary responsibility: the empowerment of others. And what many others don’t understand? You don’t have to be a manager to effect this kind of empowerment.
Five things that you can do, regardless of your role, to empower those around you:
- Listen – The world is full of people just waiting for their turn to talk; you can really distinguish yourself by listening. Ask questions. Remember important details. There’s no better way to make a person feel valued than to spend some of your focus on them. And listening is key to being successful with anything else on this list. Plus, others really do have great ideas and alternate viewpoints that can improve your operation. Even if aspects of an idea are impractical, consider if any portion of it will work, or even consider alternate ways to address the problem.
- Embrace diversity — By this I mean diversity of viewpoints and skill sets. Not everyone will do things just as you do, and this is a good thing. We all have areas where we excel and areas where someone’s talents could help us. Seek to form partnerships with those around you that utilize their best points, rather than working to make them conform to yours.
- Teach – As a manager, this makes you a trainer or coach. Unfortunately, as a peer, this makes you a know-it-all. The basis of success here is building relationships. Once you have a good line of communication, look for areas that they have identified as a struggle and help them identify solutions. Sample script: “You know, I used to have a hard time with Outlook too, until I had the chance to take a class. Maybe we can work together to figure it out.”
- Share — Share knowledge, share plum assignments, share credit, but only where it’s appropriate. Figure out what someone’s aspirations are (see: listen) and if you have the opportunity to help them get there, do it.
- Thank — Recognize the contributions of those around you. Don’t take anything for granted. Look someone in the eye and tell them why what they did was so much appreciated.
Okay, so before you accuse me of just wanting work to be a touchy-feely love fest, think about the implications. Genuine interest in your peers/manager/reports at work fosters teamwork, encourages communication, and helps everyone do their best work. Sharing knowledge and opportunity helps others grow as individuals and contributors to the organization. And although they say there’s no such thing as loyalty at work anymore, if you’re a manager that values your staff, understands what drives them, offers them growth and support and recognizes their efforts, you’ll see the impact in their longevity. All of these activities not only improve your team, they build you a reputation for teamwork and a host of allies within your organization.
How do you tap into the best of the people around you?