Long gone are the days of Frederick Taylor. Ever heard of him? In the ’80s—the 1880s, that is—this engineer revolutionized the working world by suggesting that managers give employees detailed instructions specific to their roles. This meant that employees no longer had to think, just perform. But we’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we?
Businesses have evolved. There’s a growing need for skilled, agile, engaged, and self-sufficient employees who are able to work together. We don’t look for just knowledge and diplomas anymore. Today’s leaders want employees who can adapt, learn, and work well with others. But even if you find that rare gem, you still need to know how to make the best use of their talents!
According to our satisfaction surveys, opportunities for employees to showcase their talents and abilities are still few and far between. This means that leaders aren’t bringing out the best in their employees. But why is this?
Can you relate to any of these leaders that I’ve come across during my consulting career?
- Jacques, an experienced manager, was very well liked but always overworked. After giving it some thought, he realized that he was so afraid of overtaxing his employees that he got into the habit of dealing with all the minor things himself, instead of delegating to his employees and allowing them to learn and grow from the opportunity.
- Denise always gave her employees detailed instructions but would then micromanage her assistant to make sure things ran smoothly. After taking a training course, she realized that the best way to make sure her employees were self-sufficient in the long run was to adopt a coaching approach, helping others to come up with their own solutions to problems and challenges.
- Mawad had energy to spare, to the point where his employees had a hard time keeping up with him and never knew whether he was coming or going. He was always changing plans and priorities. As a result, his employees were crippled by inaction. After a few coaching sessions, he realized that if he wanted his employees to be efficient, he needed to set clear targets and priorities and take time to evaluate the progress of his projects.
Being part of the solution
These examples illustrate how a leader can be part of the solution when it comes to empowering others and helping them to be more self-sufficient. This refers to the ability to provide Direction, identify the necessary Support, and give the other person back their Autonomy (or ability to Act). It’s a little like a mathematical equation:
Direction x Support x Autonomy
- Providing direction can involve communicating the framework, expectations, and goals related to the work. Giving meaning, a direction.
- Providing support can involve evaluating the resources needed to succeed, train, coach, and manage risks and obstacles.
- Giving the other person back their autonomy can involve giving them choices, respecting their methods, delegating some responsibilities to them, and emphasizing learning from our mistakes.
The most important thing to remember is that you won’t be able to solve the equation if any of these variables are missing. That’s what happens when you try to multiply something by zero!
Self-sufficiency, a joint responsibility
I have fond memories of one of my managers from early on in my career. She was a true visionary who gave me enough leeway to put my own stamp on my work.
But, as an employee, I soon realized that I had a responsibility to interact with her more—to better understand what she expected from me, and to share my doubts, challenges, and views with her. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your employees and to empower them to tell you what they need.
That manager left a huge mark on my career and gave me the confidence I needed to think and act for myself. It’s my sincere hope that you become this memorable leader for all your employees.