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(Em)Power to the People!

I recently was asked to provide a reference for a former employee of mine. No big deal, right; however, I found the person asking the questions to be very engaging because they really knew the job and were able to link the reference questions directly to the job. I really liked this approach because for once, I could give a reference that was 100% relevant to the job at hand. The job in question was for an HR Manager type role, and the referee was trying to get a feel for whether or not there was a cultural fit with the job and the person. After having described what they were looking for, I was asked the following question, “Based on the position described, and your experience with ‘Jamie’, what do you think is the most important thing that ‘Jamie’ will require in order to be successful in this role?”

empowerWow – what a great question I thought! Knowing that Jamie had applied for a management, (re. leadership) role, and knowing that ‘Jamie’ is a very driven and outcomes focused person who is a top performer, I told the referee that ‘Jamie’ must be given the autonomy to do the job. It was as simple, or as difficult, as that. This organization was hiring someone to take on a leadership role. Therefore, they needed to give the person they were going to hire the autonomy to do the job effectively. Far too often organizations say they want leaders, they hire the ‘right’ person, and then they micromanage them until they become a turnover statistic.

I proceeded to engage the referee in further dialogue (ok, I probably pontificated a bit) about why this element of autonomy/empowerment was so important. I told them that Jamie, much like other top performers, needs to see the big picture. They need to see that connection between what they do and where the organization they work for is going. As well, because they were hiring someone for a leadership role, they needed to provide the big picture in terms of what the broader organization and department goals were or what was being worked towards so that Jamie could then fashion this into departmental, team and individual goals.

The real lesson here for all of us as managers, leaders and HR Pros is to understand that it is so important when leading (and coaching) our people that we define the vision and a partial end state for employees – true performers will take this and run with it. Once your key folks have formulated their own goals, with some input and support from you, you need to stand back and let them run. Keep in mind, this formula is only going to work if you ultimately hold them accountable for their results. Therefore, once goals and objectives are set, make sure you have a way of measuring success – whether it be objectively (metrics) or subjectively (feedback and observation) and then hold them accountable for delivering.

I share this (longer than intended) story with you as a way of highlighting why providing autonomy and empowerment to the people working for you is so critical. Employees generally want to do a good job for you as their manager. Given the proper direction and guidance, they also don’t mind being held accountable for their performance. In fact, it has been my experience, that in order to retain and engage top performers, the elements of autonomy, empowerment and accountability need to formulate a major part of the employer/employee relationship. You need to give top talent the broad parameters within which to operate, than wind them up and let them go! Your job, as their manager, is to coach, support, remove obstacles, hold them accountable and then recognize and reward your people for their results.

What do you think? Is providing the right level of autonomy and empowering your top talent the best way to retain and engage them? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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