Give Away Power to Engage New Growth Strategies
The best leaders don’t delight at being the center of attention or consider themselves to be the only ones with good ideas. Instead, their delight is in seeing their team succeed. | by Sam Chand
Leaders empower people on their teams by injecting meaning into everything they do. God Himself has appointed and empowered us as leaders. Empowerment is much more than delegation of responsibility. It is that, of course, but we rev people’s engines when they’re convinced that what they do each day has an impact on the lives of others. They’re not just making widgets; they’re making widgets to improve the quality of life for the people who use them. We motivate those on our teams when we ask them to speak into an important decision and we listen to their input. When they believe they have a voice, they’re more engaged, more committed and more energized, even when the decision wasn’t what they suggested.
In some organizations, people are always looking over their shoulders to see if they’re going to be slapped down for doing something wrong or having a novel idea. But in a healthy culture, they have a zone of safety, and they feel secure. This security doesn’t foster lethargy; it’s the fertile soil of creativity and innovation. (If someone takes advantage of this positive environment by slacking off, you’ll know that person either needs to connect tasks with purpose more fully, or he needs to go.)
When leaders empower others, they are giving power away. The people on the team have the opportunity — in fact, the authority — to take more initiative to come up with better ideas and methods, which almost inevitably leads to greater motivation to achieve higher results. The very best leaders don’t insist on being the center of attention and having all the right ideas. They push authority and responsibility to lower levels in the organization, bringing out the best in their people and celebrating like crazy when each one succeeds. After a successful event, the leader may tell the team, “That was amazing! We can tweak a few things, but let’s talk about all the things that went really well so we can leverage those even more next time.”
When things don’t work out like they hoped, gifted leaders don’t berate the people whose project came up short. These leaders dissect what went right even more than what went wrong. And they express confidence that the person leading that effort will have a better outcome next time.
In this environment and in these conversations, people on the team feel respected, honored, valued, admired and confident in the leader. They are highly motivated to dive into the next project and give it their very best. They develop a wonderful blend of pride in their accomplishments and humility that it took the whole team pulling together to pull it off.
People live for affirmation, and they shrivel and wilt without it. Give it, but give it authentically. Don’t just say the same bland niceties again and again. Become skilled at being specific in your encouragement. Notice particular qualities. Specific, thoughtful affirmations are much more powerful than “You’re the best!” or “Great job!”
The best leaders are masters at catching people doing something innovative and affirming them for it, and these leaders are skilled at using mistakes and failures as stepping stones of growth. They actually encourage people to keep trying and stretching because the only people who don’t make mistakes are either dead or cowards. Most people are ashamed when they make mistakes, but in a healthy culture, people are free to admit their errors. If it was a good attempt but failed, the leader can help them learn and move on. If the failure was the result of a dumb decision, the leader can patiently help the person think through the process so it doesn’t happen again. And if it was a great idea but the wrong time, the leader will encourage the person to keep pushing and innovating.
The People Around You
If we look carefully, we’ll notice four types of people in our organizations. When we identify them, we can tailor our communication—and our expectations—to fit each person. These include:
These are people who can hear our vision again and again, but it doesn’t sink in. We can take them to conferences, give them books, send links to podcasts and share our hearts with them, but they just don’t get the picture. They’re not evil or immoral, but for some reason, they can’t see beyond their own needs and desires. They sit in a cubicle and perform their assigned tasks, but they can’t connect what they do to a higher purpose. If they serve as volunteers, they don’t go beyond the minimum expectations. They wander in and out of our doors without connecting with the heart of our mission. They’re undoubtedly the wrong people to ask to lead in your company or organization, but they aren’t bad people.
Many people get excited about the vision, but they don’t take initiative to fulfill it. They see a need, but they assume someone else will take care of it. However, when a leader asks them to participate to meet the need, they’re glad to help. Most people in our churches and many in our companies fall into this category.
We love these people. They catch fire when they hear the vision, and they invest their hearts, talents and resources to make it happen. When they see a need, they don’t hesitate: they take care of it. They come up with new ideas, and they’re supportive of others on the team. They’re excited about being developed so they can be more effective in changing lives, not just trained to do the job.
A few people in our organizations are captured by the vision, devote everything in them to achieve it and enlist others to join them in the work. They know, they grow and they show. If we expect everyone on our teams to be this kind of person, we may be deeply disappointed. At higher levels of an organization, though, such as the executive team, every person should be an exceptional leader. As the organization grows, we need to be more selective about the people we select, train and develop. We look for more leaders to join us.
When I speak on this topic, I tell the audience, “Within a day or two after this event, you’ll know which category you fit into. Some of you will leave here and call a friend to share what you’ve learned because this information may help him or her. You may be a leader. Some of you will go home and review your notes so you can internalize the concepts so you can grow. You’re probably an achiever. If you don’t bother to look at your notes, you may be a follower. And if you’ve missed the talks because you were walking around outside, you’re a wanderer.”
The best leaders don’t delight in being the center of attention and being the only one with good ideas. Quite the opposite. They delight in seeing others succeed, and their delight is obvious to everyone. CGM
Excerpt from New Thinking, New Future, © 2019 by Sam Chand, published by Whitaker House. Used with permission. See www.whitakerhouse.com/book-authors/samuel-r-chand for more information.
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