One of the greatest gifts I ever received from my bosses was ‘enough rope’. I don’t mean to hang myself, quite the opposite actually.
Let me give you an example. I was part of a strategy team in a well-known, medium-sized financial services business, and was charged with leading the development of the company’s customer experience strategy. It was an essential piece of work for the strategy team and uncharted territory for the business.
My boss gave me the reins and let me run with it. It was so empowering. I did some of my best work, work that I loved, and I learnt a lot. He had my back the whole time, coaching me when I asked for help and rescuing when things didn’t go to plan.
It starts with trust. If you are new to leading people, or you’ve taken over a team you haven’t worked with before, trust can be a difficult thing to give. Some bosses have a view that their team must earn their trust. I don’t support that view. As a leader, you are asking the people who work with you to trust you from the day you take on the job, even though they don’t know you. They deserve the same in return.
The next step is providing them with direction and clear expectations. Explain how the work fits into the company and team vision. Be clear about your expectations in terms of deliverables and approach, what decisions they can make themselves and what they need to run by you.
Then back them up. Be there as a guide and to answer any questions they have. Let them try new things because you never know they might discover a better way.
And this step is the hardest one. Don’t be afraid to let them make mistakes. As a leader, this can be a tough thing to do if you’re concerned that their actions will reflect poorly on you.
Remember, great leaders bring out the best in their people and empowering them to grow is worth the risk. When they make mistakes, help them to own it and fix it. I’ve been confronted by my boss or peers about a team member’s mistake many times. If you can wholeheartedly say “they made a mistake, they have owned it, and we are working through how to fix it”, they will find it difficult to argue with you.
Of course, if you work in an environment where making mistakes means life or death, you may need to put tighter boundaries around the initiatives you empower your team members to lead.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone thrive because you’ve allowed them to do so. Enjoy rolling out the rope.
In this 3:45 minute video, Dan Labbad talks about leadership being a responsibility not a right and how important it is to lead yourself and be yourself. He also talks about being able to trust your people and dealing with mishaps because things will go wrong.
Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.
John C. Maxwell
Four Questions to ask yourself when delegating work that you’re nervous about or to support a team member who is taking the lead on an important project.