It wasn’t until I moved to Bentonville and assumed leadership at a satellite office that I discovered what it really meant to lead a team. In my previous roles, I had always been based at a corporate headquarters and, unknowingly, enjoyed all the luxuries that came along with working at this location. Departments such as Finance, HR, Facilities, etc., helped to ensure I could focus solely on my job of running a team and ensuring our customers were happy. What I discovered quickly in some cases and longer in others is, you don’t appreciate these departments and their functions until you are without them. Further, it highlighted an important element of leadership. The reality was simple. If I insisted on being a part of everything, I was going to slow the team down and I was only going to get a fraction of what I wanted to accomplish, accomplished. This was not the type of leadership I was interested in.
In theory, I have always accepted the idea, you can’t grow people if you are micro managing. They need room to grow and make their own decisions, or as it may be, mistakes. But practically speaking, in a high pressure environment, with high internal and external expectations, this can at times feel like an impossible approach. Whether it is communication on a key issue to a retailer, or correctly framing up a large internal opportunity, the initial response of most leaders is to take the reins and get it done. However, giving employees the ability to shine through with these opportunities and providing higher levels of independence, is single handedly the most important, if not daunting task, many managers face.
No doubt, there is a degree of feeling like you are letting go but really you are letting people rise up … letting them take a larger role in defining their day and ultimately their career. We all want to go to work every day, focused and motivated to do our best. Personally, the way I most often obtain this feeling, is by knowing I have the freedom to make decisions, with the understanding, my boss is going to back me up, maybe not always agree 100%, but back me up none the less. This is something I strive to pass along … the concept of getting people motivated and operating at 100% because they are proud of the job they do, because they have ownership over their work.
What I have learned is, if people are not empowered to make decisions, and occasionally mistakes, then they are not given the ability to truly and completely own their business. If you want someone to really take ownership, of all the good and all the bad, you need to allow that person to put their personal stamp on it. Of the countless lessons I have learned, this has proven to be the one that has driven me and the team forward, the fastest.
*Vice President, U.S. Sales – Spin Master
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.