Giving Others the Power to Act


“I watched him over the next several weeks after our meeting. A few days before Jerry was in my office. He seemed frustrated, exhausted, and rushed. I asked if things were going okay with his team and he shrugged his shoulders and responded with a simple… ‘as good as can be expected.

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it wasn’t the time to dig into it with others in my office. So, I made a point to visit Jerry’s department several times over the next week to check in with him in his office as well as to see his team and check in with them. Each time I stepped into his office I made a point to sit down and chat for a few minutes to get a handle on what was causing his stress.

During one visit, I saw a stack of files of accounts that needed to be reviewed. I knew what they were for and wondered why those weren’t on Sara’s desk. Those reviews were clearly a function that she was capable of handling. The next morning, while getting coffee, Sara stuck her head in the break room and said good morning. I said good morning and asked how things were going.

She stopped and gave me a bit of a confused look… ‘Um…I guess things are okay. Things are a little slow.’

I reviewed reports daily and knew that she certainly shouldn’t be slow. According to Jerry’s daily report, account reviews were actually higher than normal because of the holiday season. So now it was my time to be confused.

We had recently instituted a change in policy for account reviews and I wondered if there were some issues that Jerry hadn’t had time to share with me. I got back to my desk and gave him a call and asked him to come on over.

Long story short…Jerry hadn’t had the time to train Sara on the new policy change so he had been reviewing all the accounts himself.

‘I have a lot going on right now so it’s just easier for me to review them.’

I knew at that moment that having enough time was not the main issue for Jerry…he was suffering from the ability to delegate responsibility to his team.

The ability to delegate can be an issue for many middle managers and even for management levels above. We’ve all made the statement at some time in our career that it’s easier to do it ourselves than it is to teach someone else to do it. Right?

“Listen up team…we’ve been seeing issues with these latest changes. Don’t do anything with them until you run them by me. I need to see them all and I will tell you how to proceed with the fix.”

Now the team feels like they aren’t trusted to make the necessary changes to fix the issues. They know what to do, why would she not let them do their jobs? Not to mention the back up this issue is creating in productivity for the team.

When managers refuse to delegate decisions to their team they create more than productivity issues. They create an environment for their team of dis-trust. Nothing good comes from this scenario.

When you give your team the ability to act, you create collaboration, trust, strong relationships, and competence you create a team that is not afraid to act and think outside the box.

1.     Start with Collaboration…meet with your team and encourage them to create solutions on their own. Ask critical questions to help your team dig deeper into the options that are available to correct the issue.

2.     Collaboration encourages trust…Allow your team to come up with solutions and then show them you trust them to carry out the task. Even when things go wrong support them and work through what went wrong to eliminate the same mistake in the future

3.     Trust builds relationships…when a team trusts and supports each other they build strong bonds and create successful relationships. They will learn to communicate in ways that encourage accountability and sound judgement.

4.     Building competence…show your team that they have the skills to handle the situation and watch them do extraordinary things. When your team feels competent they take ownership and when they take ownership they accept accountability.

When management takes time to educate and train a team they are making an investment in the employee, the team, and the company. But even the training is not enough to make it all flow. After the training comes coaching. Continuous feedback through coaching conversations keeps the team members motivated and moving forward.

The ultimate goal is to help everyone, within the team, to reach their full potential.

Leadership Guidance Review:

Take some time this week to review the way you interact with your team. Are you afraid of delegating responsibility and decision making?

Your goal is to create a team that isn’t afraid to act. They feel empowered to take ownership and accountability. Give them the competencies they need to be successful.