Leader, let me share one of the best things you can do to better empower your team.
And, in full disclosure, I can be the worst at this, but it’s something I’m always striving to do better. (And try to help my team learn about me.)
You want to fully empower your team?
Here’s what you do:
Release people following you from a responsibility to accomplish the ideas you are simply processing.
Often as leaders we are constantly coming up with new ideas – some of them which seem to compete with ideas we’ve already shared. Sometimes as we dispense new ideas our team begins to feel overwhelmed, because they are still processing the last “new idea” we shared.
And it is not bad at all that we have new ideas. New ideas lead to new initiatives which can lead to new growth. When we are growing and learning personally the team with whom we serve will often be where we prefer to process our thoughts and ideas. That’s a healthy and natural part of leading people.
But that can also be where we can cause problems, if we are not careful.
The team only knows what they know. If we as the leader don’t tell them, they can assume an idea we have is a project we are mandating. They can mistake something that is simply a new and untested thought – perhaps even randomly produced by something we read or something we thought about in the shower – is something we want them to act upon immediately. They sometimes hear ideas as directives.
And if we do this frequently it can begin to feel they have more to do than they have time to do it.
So, here’s the simple, but HUGE advice.
If something is not their current responsibility — let them know it’s not.
If it is just an idea and nothing more, simply let them know. And it is that simple.
You see, the team is always wondering.
- What is the leader thinking here — as it relates to me?
- What do you want me to do with that new idea?
- How do you want me to help?
- What will I stop doing if I start doing something else?
- What’s my role going to be in this?
- Are you going to hold me accountable for this?
- Do you expect something from me here?
The reality is that as leaders we are often processing and presenting a lot of new ideas to our team. Again, that’s a good thing. But sometimes we are simply “thinking” – maybe processing out loud. Sometimes we aren’t assigning anything — we are simply exploring.
And it is in those moments we need to let our team know what is going on in our minds.
The more we can release the people trying to follow us from accomplishing something that is currently only in our minds the more they can focus on things for which they are actually being held accountable. And the more willing they will be to process new ideas with us.
The bottom line is to tell people what we expect and what don’t expect. Communicate more. Say words like:
- “You are not responsible for this.”
- “I don’t expect anything from you on this.”
- “I’m not saying this is a good idea yet.”
- “Feel free to push back on this one.”
- “This is just for information.”
- “I’m simply thinking out loud.”
Sounds simple. For people trying to follow it is huge.