If you grab a handful of sand and squeeze you quickly find it slips right through your fingers until you have no more sand. It is only by using an open palm and a scooping action that you can gather the most sand and hold on to it.
Power is exactly the same. The tighter your squeeze and control on your employees the more power you will lose. The sad thing is, not only do you keep your group trapped, but you also end up being the bottleneck to success for your team. Literally they can only do as much as you can approve or interact with- so a team of 100 can really become a team of one. (If you haven’t read the book, The Goal, I highly recommend it as it will explain the bottleneck idea very clearly.)
In order to get more power you really have to give power. You give power by building trust with others on what they need to do and why they need to do it and then you leave them to handle the how to do it. Now I subscribe to the belief that you give trust and verify. This means that you give trust to your employees and you remain firm on the outcome agreed to while assisting them with removing obstacles that can stop them from achieving the outcome.
Too many leaders give trust and then sit back in their office in fear or frustration that the person will not be able to execute successfully. I don’t believe in giving trust that way because it just leaves both parties miserable. They intuitively feel you aren’t 100% behind them so they end up second guessing every decision they make and you end up in your office chewing up a roll of Tums as you see the deadline looming and no results coming.
So how do you give trust but verify?
- State clearly to the person the outcome you are looking for, why it is important and what needs to happen.
- Make sure they clearly grasp what is at stake and the “why” behind the project. The “why” is what will motivate them and will help them make strategic decisions when they have to make tough choices. Once they know the “why” they can look at each decision through the lens of “will this help us accomplish this project or will it cause a problem?”
- Talk openly about the obstacles, barriers, or fears you have with project. This is the part I see most leaders NOT doing. They hint around it but don’t come out directly and talk about it. That is like putting toxins in the air. Get them out in the open up front.
- Talk candidly together about how to overcome the barriers or obstacles or how to handle the fears. For example, I would rather have a leader say, “this is a high profile project that I will be constantly stopped and asked about at meetings. My fear is that you will tend to give me light answers like, ‘things are on track’ when what I really need are specifics so I can talk intelligently about it in meetings. I know in the past that has felt like I am micro-managing you and that is not my intent. So how will we both get past that?”
Once you have candidly laid out the plan with each other, make sure you include discussion on “how you will stay in contact on the project.” There should be no surprises with trust but verify as the person should know exactly what your concerns are and what the consequences are if the outcome isn’t met.
As a leader you now become the support network to help your team overcome obstacles, create solutions and leap to success. You will find you will gain power as others respect your team more and you gain more time back to do what you really should be doing as a leader- making strategic decisions that drive results.