It’s better to have 10 people working with you than 100 working for you.  However, others can only work with you if they are empowered to take responsibility and be accountable.  The following are key enablers of empowerment:

  1. Trust
  2. Clarity of role and responsibilities
  3. Clear parameters within which to operate
  4. Common, consistent processes and procedures across the business
  5. Permission to learn from mistakes
  6. Sufficient and appropriate resources to do the job

Ultimately what I am talking about here is how you achieve an autonomous culture.  This is reliant upon a confident leadership.  One which openly invites members of the team to use their skills and attributes to the full and contribute to business direction and success.  Business leaders often fail to appreciate the direct link between business culture and performance.  The business culture of course, is influenced by the style of leadership.

“I’ve told them to just get on with it” was what a business owner said to me recently.  He couldn’t understand why when he said ‘just do it’ his senior management team didn’t.

The same business owner also said, “What do they think they get paid for?”  I said, “beyond delivery of their technical skills, they don’t know because there’s no clarity of their roles and responsibilities”.

This business is floundering … delivering poor quality outputs, late.  There’s an air of despondency amongst senior management, and the majority of the staff are struggling to give of their best in a culture where they are poorly led, insufficiently resourced and lacking knowledge, information and understanding.

All roads lead back to the top, where power and control are retained by the absence of clear parameters within which to operate and no clear guidelines or authority thresholds.  Volume of work is a problem in this business as much duplication of effort is required to produce outputs because of a lack of common processes and procedures.  There’s a blame culture where mistakes are the ‘fault’ of the individual rather than owned by the business.  This only serves to make everyone risk-averse and in many cases, paralysed in terms of decision making.  There’s simply no trust beyond technical delivery which stifles any individual talent or aspiration.

So … Not a great story and I can guarantee that no-one who works for this business will have a long term, positive experience.

Things to think about if you’re a business owner/leader or director:

  • Do you trust others to do what you tell them or do you trust them to do the right thing?  People can only be expected to be responsible for the things they own and they can only own something if they’ve had a hand in the design.  “A team isn’t just a group of people who work together … It’s a group of people who trust each other”.  (Simon Sinek)
  • Clarity of your role and responsibilities with clear parameters in which to work are essential … their absence only serves to push decision making back up the ladder.
  • If senior managers and directors are continually checking in with their superiors before making a decision, either they’re not empowered to make decisions, or they’re insecure in their role … The 2 aren’t mutually exclusive.
  • Common processes and procedures and sufficient, appropriate resources are basic requirements for your people to be able to function.
  • Finally, next time you put your life in the hands of a pilot on a passenger aircraft, remember that learning from mistakes is rewarded in civil aviation … why wouldn’t you adopt that very same ethos in your business?