Leadership Acumen: Issue 9, May, 2003
© Banff Executive Leadership Inc.
Your Staff as Committed to Results as You Are?
Have you ever wondered if your staff is as committed to achieving
the goals and results set for this year as you are? You come
in early, work late, and put in high intensity days to achieve
corporate goals. Yet, as you observe the work ethic of your
employees, you wonder if they share the same commitment to success.
If you are
like most senior leaders, this is a common scenario. What you
do next and how you handle yourself can make a huge difference
in your effectiveness as a leader.
Let's be frank. Today's business environment is very challenging.
The demand for achieving results - whether you are leading a
business, a government department or a not-for-profit organization
- is intense. As a senior leader, the Board, other senior leaders
and the larger community, rely on you to achieve the results
outlined in the plan no matter what the changing conditions
around you. This requires sustained intensity as well as creativity
and adaptability as you move forward.
chances are you can't achieve all the results by yourself. That's
why you are a senior leader of a larger group of people, resources
and often external suppliers/partners. A significant expectation
from everyone in the system/network that you lead is that you
will 'energize' all the elements. This includes motivation,
clarity of priorities, roles and context, mobilization of resources
required, and reduction or elimination of barriers.
energize their system through fear. Others energize the system
by directing everything - telling people what to do. Still others
essentially start little fires of motivation across the system,
and then fan the flames of empowerment and creativity - releasing
the natural energies throughout.
certainly gets peoples' attention. And as everyone has experienced,
stimulates the 'fight & flight' response: narrowing of focus,
heightened attentiveness, and increased strength/effort. Unfortunately,
the fear approach is short lived. Human beings can not physically
or emotionally sustain this kind energy. Leaders who rely on
fear to achieve results often create cycles: fear - back off
- more fear - back off - etc. Companies forced to repeatedly
downsize and cut operations as a result of a significant loss
of business (i.e. airlines, high tech firms, under-funded social
agencies) have been dealing with this reality for some time
now. These continuous fear-based energy cycles have now resulted
in an exhausted, weary, and almost hope-less workforce. In addition
to results risks, real side-effects such as safety issues are
potential risks too. These are dangerous circumstances for leaders
trying to achieve results for the longer term.
who try to direct everything in today's environment must
rely on the transference of their own personal energy to the
others in the network. Perhaps we adopt this style because of
our own anxieties or pressures from above, and/or we feel we
can't trust others to make decisions or react the way we would.
So, we remove this risk and uncertainty by resorting to a very
directive and delegating style. (Delegating would be preferable
to directing, though often we witness poorly enunciated delegation
leading to confusion and assumptions.) While this approach is
less draining and demotivating to employees than the fear-based
approach, it is incredibly draining to the leader. Employees
and suppliers wait to be told what to do, then do what they
are told. Over time, their sense of responsibility, self-motivation
and initiative-taking can atrophy. This requires more time,
attention, and energy from the leader. While initially fast
and efficient to get started and see results, the network's
sustainability and ingenuity becomes almost entirely reliant
on the leader. As his/her own energy and creativity depletes,
so does the capacity of the network to achieve results. The
leader risks burn-out and replacement.
facing turn-around challenges, new business unit start-ups,
mergers, or cases where the Boards are demanding strong personal
and short-cycle accountabilities from senior leaders, often
default into this style. While they might talk the talk of 'empowerment'
or 'team', they actually walk something less effective.
way to energize a network is to release the stored or natural
energies contained within. Of course, we see this in nature,
in our bio-systems. And sometimes less obvious, we fail to recognize
that our organizations are bio-systems too. So, why not use
the processes of empowerment and inner motivation to
get people enthused by the challenge(s) and their personal abilities
to make a difference?
empowering leadership requires an up-front investment
of time and energy before the results are obvious. This is the
risk that often turns even the most well-meaning leader back
to one of the other styles during times of intense challenge.
However, if you can fight through these risks and indeed make
the effort to: clarify goals, discuss/examine the directions
and values of the organization, help members of the team to
self-define roles, inter-connections, accountabilities and reflect
on the experience they can draw upon to exert good judgment
or adapt processes in the leader's absence, then a whole collection
of little fires get ignited. With the leader's continued coaching,
re-framing of context and priorities, and ongoing encouragement,
the network's overall energy grows, its capacity for innovation
and adaptability multiplies, and its performance is much more
sustainable - at even higher levels. This also leaves some time
and energy with the leader to step out of the tactical and become
of leadership is also appropriate in situations of crumbling
market share, depressed share-price, turn around, growth/expansion,
or start-up situations.
Empowerment vs. Delegation vs. Directing:
Self control of 'EE
within parameters of task established by manager
through check-list of actions/activities from leader
Clearly enunciated goals and measures
Personal standards of excellence and contribution
- Std. practices
- Items done
- Timelines met
- Frequency of activities
- Minimum stds.
toward corporate/ community goals
Attainment of objectives
Good judgment exerted by employees
Personal abilities expressed within acceptable parameters
by Leader's ability to delegate effectively/ regularly
Limited by Leader's energy level
Minimum compliance does not ensure sustainability
Ask Your People?
So, you are still wondering about your staff's commitment level.
Why not ask them?!
Most employees come to work each day wanting to do a good job
and make a difference. Sometimes however, when corporate goals
are not clear, and what is expected of each employee is not
well defined, they lose motivation, creativity and energy. Fear
for their job or failure to please the boss can also immobilize
them at the very time you need all their energy.
question is not without its risks. They may actually tell you
things you weren't expecting, including pointing to lack of
clarity, mixed messages, that you're actually 'directing' while
talking about team or empowerment.
If you are honestly trying to do the best for the organization
and your people, they will likely be quite forgiving, and indeed
welcoming of the opportunity to chat. You may have some of your
flaws pointed out too. But don't worry; you can work on fixing
them together! An open, honest dialogue, with good listening
and avoidance of defensiveness, and with a focus on the Vision,
Values and clear objectives for performance will work wonders
to energize the network! This is the first step towards a more
empowering and sustainable delivery of results too.
to talk about the importance of the things your team is working
on in the bigger picture of the organization's overall goals,
and review each person's role within the team. Don't forget
to celebrate the successes and innovations along the way, and
to recognize both individual and team effort. These 'little
things' can be BIG motivators, and they can go a long way towards
ensuring your organization achieves your results! Chances are
that your staff really wants to be committed and engaged in
important and meaningful work. As a senior leader, it is up
to you to unleash their energy, creativity, and good judgment
to help attain those results.
Leadership Inc. offers public and customized programming to
improve Board Governance and Executive Leadership Practices.
We also provide coaching and consulting services to Boards and
Executives to help enhance their leadership practices. Please
contact us if we can be of further assistance.
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