As a leader or manager, it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that in order to serve effectively I have to care about the details (our system and process). That doesn’t mean I get lost in them or that we spend more time on them then we should in the more vision oriented / creative meetings. Caring about the details as a leader though is about showing respect and care to the people supporting you and the organization.
It seems to me that performance and power often times come from good engineering. We may fuel the team with vision and inspiration but in order for it to work well it must be built properly, maintained and intelligently designed. We need to help our team by assuring our workflow is well engineered. This requires of us, at different stages, to be involved in (aware of) the nitty-gritty of how things function.
The people making it happen live and die by the details. Confirmations, permissions, clear communication and instruction, green lights and approvals are all details and decisions. Delayed clarity puts people in holding. Broken, delayed or miscommunication (even mid-project changes) create extreme levels of rework and undermines confidence in support staff. Some of this can’t be avoided but it changes the culture of a team when leaders understand the implication of details and decisions and work hard to empower others.
This has come up recently as I’ve been cultivating marketing templates for our project managers. I’ve been building these templates to help our project managers have answers even before a question is asked. You remove bottlenecks and slowdowns by empowering people with the information and permissions they need that pertain to the details of their work. Why should I just hold that power in my hands waiting each time an initiative launches for them to come to me asking what to do or “is this ok?” Give that power to them by communicating clearly ahead of time and providing parameters.
This approach doesn’t work for every type of task but it serves as an example of working hard to empower others and to decentralize power in the team. Decentralizing power is not always easy for leaders. Some of us struggle giving power away or sharing it. We have to see that holding power slows us down and frustrates others. If all the information, permission and creativity decision make is placed in the silo of your desk there is a good chance your team is not working at maximum potential and may even be very frustrated with their work rhythm.
How often are people waiting on me? Does my team go into holding or reluctance in their work as a result of my “sitting” on information or withholding permission? Some of this is necessary but what can I make easier for them? What can I give to them that will give them the means to run rather than always be awaiting my instruction. This requires pre-thought (pre-work) and systems thinking, but also a delegation of permission, alongside training / empowerment.
One of the reasons we struggle to empower others is our own anxiety and fear of the job not getting done, or it not getting done right. At the end of the day we are responsible, and that can create a certain amount of anxiety. Empowered teams that work are great at leader directed briefs or updates. The leader directed reports and briefs create feedback loops and help the leader to have a sense of what is happening and being accomplished without being directly involved. If a leader tries to empower and then is not equipped with a sense of what is happening it won’t be long before they revert back to direct engagement.
So alongside empowering and equipping our teams we have to establish effective rhythms of communication that are trackable and published. Communication systems that are simply meeting based and only verbal result in “forgetting.” Meetings are effective for sharing with leaders if minutes are being taken. Email often times even fails in this respect as it get’s buried, same goes for chat apps.
I sat down yesterday with a project manager in an effort to discover a visual way to confirm and ensure our digital publishing was happening. I wanted to be able to see at a glance what was happening so I could confirm and audit it when needed. We came up with a calendar view that works directly within our project management app. This only took us about 20 minutes and resulted in increased clarity and empowerment. At the end of the day, this type of work leaves everyone feeling better also.
When leaders serve their teams with efforts to improve existing systems (working to remove barriers), clear communication, and delegated authority they create a more avid workflow and a more fulfilling work environment.