Are you enabling employees?
I’m not talking about being an enabler who supports others’ bad habits. The true meaning of enabling involves making someone more capable by giving them power, means, competence or ability, or making something possible, easy or equipped.
So are you an enabler at work? Or are you a disabler?
Great coaches, skilled at bringing out the best in others, have a zeal for enabling teams. Enabling employees, in this sense, means empowering team members with resources and ability to complete their tasks, and helping them develop the language and mindset to envision their own success.
Great coaches, skilled at bringing out the best in others, have a zeal for enabling teams.
This goes beyond simply eliminating roadblocks for your direct reports. Great coaches are emotionally invested in their employees’ outcomes. It’s in their DNA as a leader to produce more great leaders and to equip employees for success. Great coaches are like Mama Bears – they won’t let anyone mess with their cubs. If bureaucracy or policy, or heaven forbid someone else, gets in the way of progress, a great coach will take that personally.
What Is the Right Way to Go About Enabling Employees?
Your role as a manager means you are – or can be –a a coach to your employees. You have the opportunity to encourage and empower your employees and others who interact with you.
The best way to do this is to simply enable them – and then get out of the way. But what does that mean? What follows is a collection of guiding principles to help you enable your team – the right way.
Crush Barriers for Them with Glee
To best connect your people to their potential, you should almost giggle while busting down barriers for your team. Be a zealot. Derive a ridiculous amount of pleasure in clearing the way for them – like the amount of pleasure birds take in soiling your just-washed car.
See Around Corners for Them
Spend time anticipating on their behalf. You can often prevent someone from slamming into an obstacle simply by reflecting on your own similar experiences. Recall what problems arose, and help remove potential issues, or even reroute someone if needed.
And remember, the idea is to see around corners, not corner what you see.
By this I mean anticipate problems on behalf of your team, but don’t obsess on beating problems into submission by yourself in an attempt to be the hero.
Let your coaches in on the issues you see coming, so they can help hammer out preventative measures.
Give and Define Decision Space for Them
Giving decision space can be difficult at times, but defining decision space can be even harder. Both are critical to do. There may be nothing more disabling to people, however, than an ill-defined decision-making process.
Decision-making tends to give birth to many sons and daughters – because all of them think they have a seat at the family table. Give your team the gift of clarity with a crystal clear decision-making process. Even if the decision-making process produces outcomes they don’t agree with, moving through the process can be seen as extremely enabling.
Welcome Their Pushback
Sometimes allowing disagreement can be exactly what’s needed when enabling employees.
When people don’t feel they’ve had a “fair trial” for a dissenting opinion, they will begrudgingly plod forward, but will harbor doubt about the course of action.
Not feeling heard can also leave people not wholly committed. As the saying goes, “you have to weigh in before you can buy in”. Ignoring employee pushback is a sure way to disable the heart and mind and you’ll see a reduction in engagement, productivity and overall happiness in the workplace.
Listen to your employees. Keep a running list of what you’ve learned from them – and make it a point to tell them. They’ll feel enabled to speak up – and to teach up. Debate, decide and then commit.
Roll Up Your Sleeves and Give Them Real Help When They Need It
Ever have someone dig in and help you out of a real predicament? You don’t forget that. Neither will your people.
So when it’s called for, get your hands dirty by personally stepping up and going the extra mile to solve tough problems alongside those in need.
Protect Them Under Times of Duress
Ever notice how you get a lot of “help” in times of adversity (in the form of inquiries and requests from above, aside, and around you)? While it’s critical to welcome and leverage your chain of command/peer group/functional partners, at times the most enabling thing you can do for your team is beat back the swarm. And, to borrow a term from the financial world, “ring fence” your crew.
So in challenging times, build a metaphorical protective fence around your people. Be the gatekeeper and personally handle inquiries and requests. Respectfully set parameters for what the team will, and will not answer during the time of duress.
Help Them Flip the Script
How often have you walked into a situation that seems as if everyone is reading from the same bad script?
“We can’t succeed; we don’t have enough time and resources.”
“I’m working with the B team here.”
“My boss doesn’t get me.”
“Competition is too brutal.”
“We’ve never been able to do that.”
And while some of these excuses might be valid, the resulting venomous attitudes are unlikely to improve a bad situation.
As a skilled coach, enabling employees means encouraging them to reject a “victim mentality” where they fall prey to the “script”, or seemingly unfavorable reality, as the final word. Free them from ingrained excuses, unproductive cultural norms, false beliefs or acidic attitudes.
Sometimes a nudge from you is what they need to help them flip the script and start reading – and believing – a different story.
Resource the Racehorse and Equip Them for Success
Disabled teams failing to prioritize, are not fully committed, and avoid making decisions. Enable your teams by prioritizing the key work – your “racehorse” projects in the stable – and let ‘em run by fully resourcing them.
So, the bottom line is, if you want to be a Once-In-A-Career coach, you’ve got to learn how enabling employees works. By adopting these tips, you’re now able to do just that.
For more workplace inspiration from Scott Mautz, read his newly released book, Find the Fire: Reignite Your Inspiration & Make Work Exciting Again (October 2017), the anticipated follow up to Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning.
Visit www.scottmautz.com to download the free Find the Fire companion workbook and additional free resources, such as the Full-Potential e-book to help you become a Once-in-a-Career Coach and the Leadership Toolkit (which includes among others, The Authenticity Code of Conduct, Purpose Power Questions, Risk Taking Conversation Starters, 8 Ways to Grant Intelligent Autonomy, Top 10 Characteristics of the Best Leaders, Top Behaviors of Rising Star Leaders, 11 Inactions That Will Kill Your Reputation as a Leader, 10 Insights on Inspirational Leadership).