Let Them Go and Watch Them Grow

Trust your employees to be responsibile and make decisions and you will see them grow and make a difference in your company

Leadership is not about being in charge and doing the work; it is about getting results through people and developing trust in your employees.
Leadership is not about being in charge and doing the work; it is about getting results through people and developing trust in your employees.

Trust is the number one characteristic of leaders. Without trust, people won’t follow you. Can you imagine buying products from a store or insurance from an agent you don't trust? You're just not going to do it. Would you do repeat business with someone you didn’t trust regardless of price?

I remember a time when I was at one of our large construction jobsites. I walked up to one of our long time dedicated employee cleanup crew laborers and asked, "Why aren’t you using the wheelbarrow to get the job done faster?" He says, "My foreman wasn't here this morning. He never gives me the key to the tool storage bin. So I'm using my shovel to carrying the trash all the way across the jobsite to the trash container." I am thinking: “Boy, this is not smart jobsite management! Why doesn't the foreman trust you with a key?"

People, who aren’t trusted, don’t go the extra mile, just go through the motions and do the minimum. One of your jobs as a leader job is to develop trust. Rather than doing the important jobs for your people, you can learn to trust your people. In a Gallop survey poll, 66 percent of workers were asked to make decisions, but only 14 percent said they'd been empowered and trusted to make decisions. A bad example of leadership is at hotels where there's a little card on the table that says, "For immediate response to any concern, this form is addressed to the president of the hotel." The president's office is 2,000 miles away. He obviously doesn't trust his people to take care of customer’s needs. Put people in charge; give them the tools, responsibility and authority. Then watch them go and make a huge difference.

Do you solve other people’s problems?

Do people ever line up outside your office door waiting for you to solve their problems? Why? Maybe you have a sign around your neck - "I SOPP” (I solve other people's problems). As a high school student I completed my career aptitude test and discovered I'm a person who likes to solve problems. But, when you solve other people's problems, guess what happens? They bring you more problems! People know when they make decisions, you tend to second-guess them, often overrule them, and don’t trust them to be as smart as you. So your people stop making decisions, stop being responsible, give you back full accountability, and continue to bring you more problems. People responsible for nothing are responsible for nothing. Ninety-nine percent responsible is the same as 0 percent responsible. Either you are responsible or you're not. You can't be partially responsible. You can't say, "Handle this, but check with me first." Trusting people is the key to improving their performance.

Please handle this!

I had a rubber stamp made I use when people give me a request for approval. It states, "Please handle this and don't tell me what you did!" Why? Because I don't want to know how they handled the problem they wanted me to solve. I have to trust them to use their best judgment and take care of it 100 percent. People will make mistakes. But, when you ask them to be 100 percent accountable and responsible, they’ll figure out how to do it right and make good careful decisions. If you continually answer their questions and do their job for them, they’re going to keep asking you for more help. I found out my employees make better decisions than me, if I let them.

Low control = high performance

Leadership is not about being in charge and doing the work. It is about getting results through people. It is also not about being in control. Controlling people guarantees low performance. Leadership is about delegating, encouraging, coaching, letting go and low control. Low control guarantees the highest performance from your people. The more you let go of, the more time you have to do what really matters. The more you coach, empower and encourage, the more leadership opportunities you’ll have. People want to follow leaders who trust them and give out accountability and responsibility. So your role as a leader is less about what you do and more about what your people do.

Leaders inspire others to become the best they can be. Not tell, not do, but inspire. I've changed my role over the last 20 years, from a hands-on control freak to an inspirer, encourager, motivator and coach to get the results I want. And this now makes me real excited about coming to work. In my speaking presentations, I ask business owners on their handouts to draw a circle the size of a quarter. Then I ask them to write all the things in the circle they can't let go of. In my opinion, there's really nothing you can't delegate except mission, vision, values and setting clear goals and targets. Everything else can be delegated with enough staff and resources. Obviously smaller business owners and managers can't let go of everything, but they could delegate at least half of what they do right now, especially if they have a few people working for them.

Take the test

Write out the few things you absolutely can’t delegate. And then list out the top 20 things you can let go of. Make a goal to delegate one item on the list every week. You’ll be amazed how excited your people will be to accept new responsibilities and become accountable. Then your job will be to watch them go and make a huge difference.

George Hedley works with contractors to build profitable growing companies. He is a professional business coach, popular speaker and best-selling author of “Get Your Business To Work!” available online at www.HardhatPresentations.com.  To sign-up for his free e-newsletter, join his next webinar, be part of a BIZCOACH program, or get a discount coupon for online classes at www.HardhatBizSchool.com, e-mail GH@HardhatPresentations.com