Modernize Leadership: Engage and Empower

ML_EngageEmpower

In a previous post, I described how today’s management techniques reflect outdated assumptions of technology-enabled practices, human behavior, and the meaning of success. That’s why organizations must shift to what I’m calling Modernize Leadership.

I’m writing individual posts for each of the eight key changes required to modernize leadership. In this post, I’m examining the shift from:

Command and Control to Engage and Empower

Here’s some more information to better understand this shift:

Outdated Thinking
Here are some ways in which leaders must change how they view the world:

  • Leaders focus on assets such as products, customers, and cash, but don’t fully recognize the true value of employees. In many cases, employees are THE critical asset. As a matter of fact, engaged employees are the start to a virtuous cycle that leads to better financial results. It’s no surprise that companies that significantly outperform their peers financially have 1.6-times the number of engaged employees than do companies that underperform their peers.
  • Leaders often act as though the success and failure of their business is based solely on the decisions being made by their most senior people, so they focus a large portion of their time and energy on developing and vetting strategies. But all too often, strategies fail because of a lack of support and follow-through by employees who are unaware of what needs to be done, unable to do what it takes, or unwilling to support the change.
  • Leaders often respond to problems by putting in place new processes and stricter rules, while there is no ongoing mechanism for removing or simplifying those elements. Over time, the organization gets bloated with so many rules and regulations that employees feel little ownership for the success of the company. And the company loses its ability to adjust to new situations.

Southwest Airline’s founder and former CEO Herb Kelleher captured thinking about Engage and Empower when he said:

“If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.”

Modernized Leadership Actions
Here are some ways in which leaders should act based on a modernized perspective:

  • Influence better decisions. Leaders need to be less focused on the small number of decisions that they make, and more focused on the myriad of decisions that they influence across their organizations. How can you help employees make better decisions?
  • Measure employee engagement. If you measure other assets, why not employee engagement? But only do it if you plan on taking action on what you find. Consider using the Temkin Employee Engagement Index.
  • Master the Five I’s. How can you engage employees? Learn and master the five employee engagement competenciesInform, Inspire, Instruct, Involve, and Incent.
  • Assume positive intent. Instead of trying to keep employees from making mistakes by limiting their span of decision-making, find more ways to enable them to use more of their own judgement. Start by believing that your employees can (in almost all cases) be trusted—and train them.
  • Activate middle managers. It’s hard to get any group of employees to change their behavior when their managers are still reinforcing old processes, measurements, and beliefs. When you’re rolling out changes, don’t consider these efforts as being successful until your middle managers are fully on board. This may take some extra work, but the initial investment in time and effort will pay dividends.

The bottom line: Engage and empower your employees.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

3 thoughts on “Modernize Leadership: Engage and Empower”

  1. A excellent summary of key leadership success traits. Starts with a perspective of TRUST. Without that, no genuine leadership can be leveraged.

  2. Leadership is key when it comes to being successful. Without an effective leader, you could be dead in the water. I have found that my success in the business world is due to the fact that I follow the careers of those who are more successful than myself. I worked hard and took the advice of others in order to grow my business to the size it is today. I have been following the career of Mark Hurd for the last few years now, since he has taken over at Oracle. I have also been impressed with his leadership and ability to turn a company around. I have closely following his statements at OpenWorld 2016 and I am excited for what he has in store and I am looking forward to the direction that Oracle is heading in the next few years.

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