“If you don’t understand that you work for your mislabeled ‘subordinates,’ then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny.” -Dee Hock
You have two choices as a manager. You can force every staff member to do things as you would do them or you can encourage them to achieve the results you want to achieve. The first choice will force you into a great deal of resistance and move you further from your goal. The second will reduce your stress as your staff finds innovative new ways to achieve your shared goal. In the past I have addressed the desire for autonomy as a vital motivating force for restaurant employees. Today I will address it from the perspective of a leader and how it benefits the leader as well.
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” -George S. Patton
Even in a system as regimented as the military, General Patton found autonomy produces the best results. The key to leading through autonomy is to measure success by results rather than methods. Chasing your staff around to insure they are doing things the way you prefer to have them done will lead to them doing so only begrudgingly and only when watched. Feeling that you cannot trust your staff to achieve the common goal becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. By measuring methods rather than results you have taken the shared goal away from them. It is no longer about the goal, but about adherence to orders.
“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” –unknown
Sharing a common goal and relating to your staff the results you wish to achieve will give them confidence in you. You must repay this confidence by showing some in them. The value of a common goal is to inspire. The job of a leader is to give the staff the confidence that they can achieve that goal. You give people confidence in themselves by demonstrating that you know with certainty that they can achieve the goal. Your confidence in your staff fills the void when they lack confidence in themselves.
“We should seize every opportunity to give encouragement. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.” –Unknown
One of the best ways to demonstrate your confidence and encourage others is to praise them for a job well done. This needs to be done as a group and individually. The success of the group must be praised, but so should the efforts of the individuals. This doesn’t have to be done with plaques, trophies, or prizes. It can be done through recognition in front of a group, spotlighting particular skills, or a genuine word of thanks. Nothing is more affirming of empowerment than praise.
Here are some tips on how to praise your staff:
Give Them A Minute: Instead of just walking by a staff member and telling them they did well, stop and thank them. Stop walking, square your body to them, and thank them. Doing this shows them that they are important enough to merit your full attention. Be specific in your praise. Highlight something they did well and thank them for contributing to achieving the common goal.
Highlight Best Practices: When someone develops a technique you find effective, have him or her share it. This allows the person to spread this knowledge to the group. The person who is sharing it will have their autonomy affirmed. The others will be reminded that this is a shared goal and that they are empowered to find the best way to achieve it. In this way you can highlight the best methods while still judging by results.
Pass Along The Praise: Inevitably as you progress towards these goals, your bosses will notice. This is the time to show true leadership. Instead of simply taking the credit, ask for something in return. Tell your boss that you feel the top performers on your staff deserve the credit. Ask them to take the time to thank your key staff members. Something as simple as an email mentioning your top performers by name or a phone call from your boss will mean more to them than it does to you.
In order to achieve superior results, you need more than the input of one person. No matter how much you know about the job you staff does, they collectively know more. They are also in a better position to innovate. Once you have sold them on the shared goal, do not stand in their way. Encourage them to innovate, measure results, and recognize their successes. Only in movies and video games can one person be more powerful than a team working towards a common goal. Empowering others with the details allows you to have more time to focus on reaching the goal.
This is one part of a six part series on leadership. The overview of the series and links to the other parts can be found here. You might also find useful my previous series on “how to motivate servers” or one of my other posts on management.
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