It's been a century since efficiency expert Frank Bunker Gilbreth discovered in 1920 that it's best to hire a lazy worker to do a hard job because they will find an easy way to do it. (And no, it's not Bill Gates who said it first.) But the philosophy of "working smarter, not harder" has not fully caught on among managers themselves.
In an article published on FastCompany, Matt Casey, author of The Management Delusion—The Easy Way to Do a Hard Job, shared his thoughts on "the lazy management approach", a term which he coined during his time at Moonfruit (UK). The name is a clever take on the nature of his management position, and it has nothing with being lazy.
What is lazy management?
The lazy management approach aims at enabling and empowering employees to be more proactive with their jobs and take full responsibility. For instance, reviewing and approving time-off requests. Casey believes the task is mundane, and his employees should not be told if their off days will make an impact on someone else's schedule. It is their job to ensure that no damaging consequences will arise as a result of their absence.
The change has freed up Casey's calendar significantly. He expects people to take advantage of the now "lousy" management technique. To his surprise, nobody has exploited enhanced freedom. According to Casey, "It’s almost as if being treated like an adult encourages you to act in a more adult way. When there were more boundaries, people pushed against them. When they were taken away, they didn’t have anything to push against, so they did their job.”
What Casey presents is an example of employee empowerment in the workplace. The ultimate goal of employee empowerment is to enable staff to unleash their full potential, be more present and in control, and be accountable for their actions. Ideally, no one will sabotage their right to such freedom. To achieve that goal requires a lot from managers and leaders, not just showing their trust.
What can leaders and managers do to empower employees?
1. Communication, communication, communication
In today's fast-paced, digitally centric world, the art of communication is often overlooked and undervalued. It is no surprise that great leaders are great communicators. They communicate clear messages, the idea is being heard and understood, and everyone is on the same page.
Thus, empowering leaders, in addition to being great at communicating, also need to identify roadblocks that wreak havoc on internal communication. Clear communication plays a critical role in the lazy management technique in which it helps to clarify any concerns and lay down the foundation that defines duties that the staff is supposed to do.
Communication also does not limit to just work-related issues. It can be something casual yet uplifting that replicates those water-cooler moments we often have with our colleagues. Small talks or one-on-one conversations between managers and staff are critical in boosting employee engagement as well as help managers to unveil potential challenges so leaders can address timely.
On that same note, a good communicator also needs to be a good listener. They listen to any concerns, issues, feedback, and ideas from employees to make employees feel valued, respected, and supported.
At the end of the day, managers and leaders can make an impact on their employees' careers. Make it counts.
2. Know when and what to delegate
As a leader and manager, you carry a lot on your shoulders, and you can't virtually do everything on your own. Thus, delegation is one of the many critical management skills that leaders must master.
Think for a moment, during your day-to-day operation, what are the factors that stop you from delegating tasks to your subordinates?
Is it because:
- You feel guilty for adding more tasks to their workloads?
- You lack confidence in the individual?
- You think it would take the individual much longer to complete the task so you just do it yourself?
If any of the above reasons resonate with you, you should reconsider how you work. Not only will it add more weight to your already heavy workload, but it also results in employees missing out on valuable learning and growth opportunities.
Far too many bosses want to be the smartest person in the room as a way to make themselves appear important. This can do more harm than good. Delegation is key to business success and offers tremendous benefits. It helps to free up the leader’s precious time to focus on more critical tasks – tasks that yield the highest returns. For employees, delegation can further empower employees, boost morale, and increase productivity.
3. Praise, inspire, motivate
Despite having the best man for the job, mistakes happen. On the other hand, everyone wants to be acknowledged for a job well done. A simple thank you can go a long way. Sure, you and your teams are paid to be on time for work and to get the job done, but it is hard to keep up the same quality of work day in, day out without recognition.
An empowering leader and manager know when to:
- Motivate and inspire employees to find better, more efficient, more creative ways to do a job.
- Ask powerful questions based on careful observations of the employees instead of demanding them what to do.
The purpose of employee empowerment is to make room for your employees to grow, be confident and ready to take on challenges and opportunities without fear of failing.
4. Foster a culture that empowers
All in all, empowering employees is not a mission that you can handle alone. It is a collective effort that requires buy-in from the management and a corporate culture that allows empowerment.
More than just the company's bottom line and concrete results, an empowering leader and manager portray a role model that employees look up to. Thus, empowering them also means the leader themselves have to let go of their ego, acknowledge the employee's work, coach them towards their goal when they went astray, and motivate them to strive harder when they hit a roadblock.
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For an employee to succeed in their role, they need to be given the autonomy to achieve goals and provided a clear growth path.
An empowering culture will lead to increased productivity and happier employees. Whether it is possible to build one, the answer lies in your hands.
One of the methods that can provide leaders and managers with a comprehensive look at employees’ strengths and weaknesses is 360-degree feedback, an extremely useful tool to strengthen your talent management strategy and to properly develop employees.
360-degree feedback is a powerful tool if implemented and used correctly. To learn how it can help boost the growth of your team, discuss your concerns with our team of consultants and request a demo today.