I have been working with a local business owner in White Plains, NY. He claims that his employees lack initiative. “Unless I tell them what to do nothing gets done. I can’t trust them to do it themselves.” I asked the owner to give me an example. “Well,” he said, “I have given them detailed directions of exactly what I want done and they don’t do it the way I told them.” “Wait a minute,” I said, “Didn’t you just say that you wanted them to take ownership?” I think we have a conflict here because the owner wants one thing but tells his employees something else.
If you want employees to take ownership you must empower them to make decisions as to the best way to get things done.
If this is a source of frustration to you, here are two questions that you need to ask yourself. First of all, have you provided her with the tools to succeed? And have you clearly communicated the objectives and desired results? Or have you given a lot of detailed directions without explaining to the employees the reasons why?
The first thing you need to do is let go and empower your team. Instead of giving assignments with specific instructions try something different. Here are two different approaches to giving an employee an assignment.
Let’s say that you have a project the needs to be completed. You could give your employee a complete set of instructions detailing what you want done, how you want it to be done, and specific steps you want taken to get it done. You follow up to see that each step is completed as prescribed. Although it is important to communicate with your employee this type of micromanaging is detrimental to your employee’s progress. He or she is thinking I don’t know the purpose here but this is what the boss wants so I will do as I am told. This stifles creativity and discourages the employee from taking ownership. According to Gallop, one of the major motivators for employees is the belief that their opinions count. Did you ever ask for your employee’s opinion? Well, you would first have to tell them the mission and goal.
Now let’s try another approach. You tell your employee that you have a special project and that you would like her to take charge. You explain the nature and purpose of the project and the goal. You offer suggestions on the process but you stress that you are looking for her suggestions in the process. Let her know that she may make modifications as she sees fit as long as the general goals are met. You ask her if she has any question about the goals. You then ask her to come up with her action plan and her intermediate goals for obtaining the project goal. You let her know that you are depending on her for the final outcome and she has your support and confidence.
You have engaged your employee in the second approach. She knows that her opinion counts and that you are depending on her. You have given her ownership of the project and you can hold her accountable for results. Empowering your employees encourages them to take ownership and be accountable for their results.
Before you get discouraged with your staff’s performance make sure that your leadership encourages them to take ownership and be accountable.