As a leader the only way you really get things done, is through your people, by supporting and empowering them. As a new leader, you are probably facing the challenge of realising you could not do, control, get involved, solve or start every task your team has to accomplish. As if this isn't frustrating enough, you might also come to realise that you don't even know how to do some of the things your team needs to do. So how can you possibly ensure these things get done, on time and to the standard required?
In my blog on My 5 keys to Leadership Success, Support and Empower Your Team is the first key. It's first because it's an important shift in thinking, feeling and acting that has to happen before you can really start to embrace and enjoy the role of a leader.
So, how exactly do you do this?
Step 1: Clarify your expectations
In your 1st weeks in the new leadership role, your most important task is to understand what is expected of you as the leader of the team, what the purpose, goals and tasks of the department are and what each person's role in that is.
Prior to running my own business I joined a new organisation with a small team of trainers. My 1st task was to get to know them and what they were doing. This happened over several weeks, spending time together, seeing and discussing what they did, how they did it and what benefit it brought to the organisation. I also talked with my boss about the purpose and scope of my role. What were his expectations, what were my main goals / priorities and what changes or progress he expected from my department.
As what was expected of me became clearer, I was able to sit down with each person in my team and start to share my expectations of them. We began to shape their goals, set targets together and define the standards we wanted to achieve that were motivating to each of us. This was a process, not one meeting and it was a collaboration, with each person individually and as a team.
This felt like a great start, but I quickly realised that each person, in different ways needed more help in 'how' to do this.
Step 2: Provide help as needed in 'how' to do it
This is a tricky one, because of the 'as needed'. Find out what they already know, ask for their ideas and encourage them to implement those ideas. Support, coach, inspire, stimulate, but don't control, interfere or simply tell them what to do. Get it right and you empower, get it wrong and you demotivate.
I spent time with each of my team members. I got involved in what they were doing, I observed and listened and then asked questions. We discussed 'how' they were doing things, what worked easily and what was much more challenging.
This process identifies where they lack experience that you need to provide, where they lack skills that you need to develop and where they lack confidence that you need to build. This is a continuous learning and development process both formal and informal, on and off the job. You are not just a leader, you need to be a coach and a mentor to motivate them, encourage them, catch them when they fall and get them back on their feet again.
This ongoing support is essential to build confidence, prove to them what they are capable of and this leads to empowerment and responsibility for their role.
Step 3: Give feedback as often as possible
Give praise and acknowledge their good ideas; when they did well, when they succeeded and show you notice the effort they put in and the results they got. Share when they missed something, made a mistake or were off track, so they can get back on track quickly and back to doing great and getting more praise. And remember to celebrate the successes.
Although every part of being a leader is important to your success I believe this is possibly one of the most important parts. All of us value and appreciate feedback that is given with good intentions for our benefit and to help us. Yet most of us feel we don't get it nearly as often as we would like and need.
Giving feedback requires integrity, honesty and empathy. It can be done at any moment, when it is needed, to quickly get your people back on track or quickly build their confidence.
Be sure your feedback consists of both parts. Acknowledge things they have done well, especially when you know it was challenging for them. It may not be perfect, but it is progress and they should know this. Don't be afraid to discuss with them when something is not quite right.
This opens learning opportunities; how they could do this differently in the future, share an example from your own experience or agree a skill development you will help them with.
When you start to see successes in Supporting and Empowering your team you will also start to see that more is getting done, more easily and more consistently and you are not doing it all or controlling it all. Your team are getting on with it, looking to you to direction, and bringing the results you all need. It's a great success and the job for all of you starts to get easier.
In my next blog we'll explore the 2nd Key to Leadership Success: Never Stop Learning.
In the meantime, share your own successes and challenges in supporting and empowering your people, ask others how they have handled similar situations and share your own best practice for the benefit of all of us.