When people strive to raise the intelligence in the room, teams become smarter. Surround yourself with people who focus more on improving others than proving themselves.
~ Adam Grant
When I got into business in the 1990s, everything was about climbing the ladder. I was told that I’d have to suck it up as a low-level sales guy for a few years, pay my dues and then someday I could (maybe) be the VP of Sales at the top with the consolidated power. It would be then – and only then – that I’d have a say on day-to-day business matters.
I worked hard, paid my dues and learn a lot over the next decade+. And it was 13 years later when I got to the top. And it was then I realized that good management wasn’t about being a dictator – it was about working as a team.
What I learned is by giving away some of my power, the results I achieved were much greater than anything I could have accomplished with the classic “top down” approach.
I’ve worked to articulate my learnings into actionable take-aways. Here are some of the key actions I’ve seen by great leaders:
- Check your ego at the door. It is not about you – it is about achieving the best potential results. Do not let your ego be a hindrance or the reason you don’t accomplish everything you want to do.
- Let people have their say. Engaged employees deliver great productivity and stay in companies. The only way they can be engaged is when leaders actually listen to what they have to say: their ideas, challenges, thoughts, dreams.
- Get to the front lines and have regular discussions. If you are in strategy and review meetings each and every day, then you’re missing out on what’s actually happening in your business. Be sure to go to those remote locations regularly, visit customers, chat with people on the help lines. Not once a year – but all the time (or as often as you can). Recognize great results and watch for opportunities to improve.
- Demand feedback from everyone. This one is not easy, as no one typically wants to give critical feedback to the boss. But great leaders not only ask for feedback, they demand You need to request it and encourage people to be forthright and honest. And then don’t be quick to deflect the feedback or get defensive – instead listen and process what your staff is saying. Take notes as you need to, and take some time to figure out what you can learn from what you hear.
- Do not ignore feedback from atypical sources. Just because you are in operations, that doesn’t mean you can’t have great insight into sales (or vice versa). Different points of view, from different functional areas, different geographies, etc., can help paint a whole picture that may otherwise be slanted.
- Do not keep secrets. This one is really important. While there are times that you cannot share every detail of areas of your business, the best leaders are transparent with results and show exactly how the company is executing to the strategy. The more knowledge your employees have, the more ideas they can feed into the business. And you already know many of these ideas will be quite good.
In the past few years, Microsoft and new CEO Satya Nadella have seen a meteoric rise in the value of the business. When Satya took over as CEO in 2014, Microsoft was run as a top down, “do as you’re told” company – really, the old-school way. At that time, the once-great Microsoft was seen as a dinosaur and was losing status to rivals like Google.
But Satya came in and changed things up. He empowered his teams. And, by giving away some of his own power, Satya allowed his employees to make important decisions for the business. The result is no secret – Microsoft is now the second largest company in the world, right behind Apple.
The lesson learned here is that by giving some power away, you’ll increase engagement, decrease turnover and ultimately have success in your business like you’ve never seen before.
What results have you seen in your company to giving power away? Have you had a similar experience? Or have you made some mistakes in the past and have been working to change things around?
Contact me as I’d like to hear your experiences as a leader. Bill Morrow – Managing Partner – 610-310-6707. Connect with me on LinkedIn or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.