May 16, 2018

Empower Your Team, Part 2

By: Carter Wade

Efficiency Management

As I shared in Part 1, in the early part of my career, I was disaster compared to how I manage and lead now. 

I was one of those people who just knew that I could do it the best way possible and I took it upon myself to do the work (which led to extremely long hours and near burn out).  It just HAD to be perfect I would tell myself.  But what that created were two really bad things with the people that reported to me:

  1. A feeling that because they couldn’t do something the exact same way I could, they lost confidence and then did what I refer to as “upward delegating.”  Asking if I would do the work.  To take the “monkey on my back.”  And in those days, I did it without even knowing it.
  2. The person(s) reporting to me would complete a task in a sub-par way (like writing or proofing a proposal with mediocracy) knowing that I would actually be the one to catch any errors or problems and get it to where it really needed get to in order to send to the client.  So again, I took the monkey on my back.  Not a good thing for me. 

Do either of those things sound familiar about how you’re leading and managing your teams today?  Don’t beat yourself up if so.  You can make a change starting right now which will be better for you.  Better for them.  And better for your business.  I know all of this is true from firsthand experience.

Here are five ways you can empower your team today: 

  1. Look at your own To-Do list. Identify a minimum of 3-4 things that you can delegate and let your staff members lead on each.  At first glance you might be saying, “There’s no way they can possibly do that.”  But look harder and give it away.  They can do it.  From start to finish.  Empower them.
  2. Provide generous boundaries to your employees so they feel empowered to make more decisions. This will help boost their confidence and they’ll do better work.
  3. Be a truly good listener to your staff. Also, make yourself accessible.  Let them know they can tap into you at any point to get your perspective about what you’ve empowered them to lead on.  Just don’t take the monkey on your back and be upwardly delegated to. 
  4. Consider new ideas and new ways to get work, processes, and/or approaches done. Don’t be stuck in your old ways.  Trust the staff and let them try it.  Who knows.  They might find new and more efficient way to do it which could turn improve your company’s bottom line.  That would be icing on the cake.
  5. Forgive your staff for making mistakes. They are going to happen.  But if you can be forgiving, gently point out how something should have been done differently, or correct a problem, then you’ll build trust with them.  They’ll learn from the mistake and they’ll be much more careful to take care of it the next time.

Two of my very favorite gurus in leadership and management are Jim Collins and Marcus Buckingham.  Between the two of them they have done extensive research on hundreds of companies and thousands of employees. 

As a leader I’ve tried to apply their learnings and approach for almost my entire career since they are based on actual research, not just some dreamed up philosophy.  You’ll see quotes of theirs on the importance of true empowerment like this one:

“You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.” 
― James C. CollinsGood to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't

This is absolutely key to being successful as a manager.  You see a good manager loves getting results from the work of others, NOT taking the credit themselves.  Empowering your people means letting go your own ego so that others can shine!

The empowerment is about providing your team to TRULY give them control.  That is, giving them the terminal responsibility to keep the customer, or to keep the product selling, or to buy more or sell less.  Whatever it might be, give them the reins.  Put your trust in them to succeed. 

I know if you do that, they will perform for you. 

Take these five ideas and start using them today.  The folks you manage will thank you for allowing them to finally do their job.


Carter Wade is a Partner and Client Services leader at the Veritus Group, a major donor training and consulting agency.  He’s an enthusiastic senior leader and client advocate with more than 30 years of experience serving non-profit organizations in strategic planning, direct response marketing, and fundraising. He’s developed and managed highly successful campaigns for a wide range of national and regional clients throughout the United States.  He’s lives in Seattle with his wife and three kids.

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