173. The 3 Simple Steps To Empowering Employees
Nothing jacks up my anxiety like Madlibs.
You know Madlibs right? One person asks for a series of random adjectives, nouns, adverbs and the such. The words get placed in some silly story and, when it’s read allowed, it turns into offensively nonsensical hilarity.
Don’t get me wrong, I like me a good nonsensically offensive story as much as the next person - that’s not what jacks up my anxiety.
Instead, what I’m completely embarrassed to admit is that I am clueless when it comes to grammar. I have a fear of being revealed as a journalistic fraud and Madlibs will be the trigger for my great undoing.
I’m in my fifties now, I’ve been a published journalist for decades. Even if you threaten to scar me with a searing stromboli, I am unable to tell you the definition of an adjective, adverb, or most every other grammatical element in the English language.
My brain just doesn’t work in a way that allow the rules of grammar to mean anything to me. My writing is not improved by understanding grammar. Or, rather, if I understood it, I’m not sure it would make a difference.
For whatever reason, when my teachers tried to teach me about grammar, I didn’t do well.
Everything changed, though, when my English teacher stopped trying to teach me the process of writing a sentence and simply gave me the goal of writing what felt good and seemed natural.
That made a lot more sense to me than trying to figure out how a pluperfect participle gets placed three syllables short of a hanging adverb.
I just started writing like people talk. And wow. It all clicked into place when I knew my goal and suddenly writing felt right.
The Working Hours
I was speaking with a leader recently about his company. He built a hugely successful venture, generating tens of millions of dollars in revenue every year with insanely high profit margins. His business is about as close to minting money as you can get, this side of Frank Bourassa.
That said, the leader kept telling me about his frustration with one of his senior staff members. Why are you frustrated? I asked.
Well, this senior staff member consistently starts work at 9:05 or 9:10 am. The “required” work hours for the company are 9 to 5 every day.
I explored further.
I asked if the employee had meetings or deliverables due by 9:00 am that he was missing.
Nope, he doesn’t.
I asked if the employee was failing at his job or not meeting expectations.
Nope, he isn’t. In fact, he’s one of the best workers.
So why do you care if he arrives later? I asked.
It’s the optics, he responded. Everybody else is forced to arrive at 9:00. So if he shows up late, soon everybody will.
The Goal is the Goal
One of the most common mistakes leaders make is to focus on their employees’ process rather than their goals.
After all, leaders become leaders because they’ve excelled at their jobs. They probably have insight into how something should and shouldn’t be accomplished. Consequently, it is very easy, almost natural, for a leader to tell an employee how to do something - or even when to do it.
But here are the problems with guiding by this process:
People don’t get inspired by being told exactly how to do something
People don’t feel respected without the flexibility to be themselves
People don’t like being micromanaged. It’s pretty darn demeaning
So let’s hop on back to me and the writing for a hot second.
When I was being told the process of writing - the adverbs and past participles - I wasn’t inspired to write because the process didn’t mean anything to me.
However, the moment I was told the goal (write sentences like people talk), I felt empowered. I understood what I needed to do and I succeeded.
The 3 Simple Steps To Empowering Employees
In today’s younger and virtually altered working environment, employees have more freedom than ever before. Bosses or coworkers are no longer looking over an employee’s shoulders to make sure they do what they are supposed to.
For any growing company, it is critical for leaders to embrace this freedom.
Fortunately, this can be done in three simple steps:
Clear Goals. Make sure each employee has clear S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound)
Boundaries. Make sure employees understand their goals and any boundaries they have in order to achieve those goals.
Support. Let the employees figure out how to achieve their goals within the boundaries. It’s up to them to determine new processes. It’s up to them to ask for support. It’s up to you to encourage them and hold them accountable.
So hows about you stop reading this article right now, begin realizing how you’re guiding by processes and make the commitment to start leading by setting clear goals for your employees.
I guarantee you will be blown away by the increase in productivity.
Oh, and do me a favor… never ever bring up Madlibs in my company.