Blog Post October 2015 by: Sherri K Baldwin
There is a perception that once someone gets promoted to the “tower” office, they never leave their desk, they are out of touch with reality and expectations can be unrealistically high. There is some truth to the perception. As we move up the ladder, our thinking becomes narrower. Think of it as a pyramid, the higher up the pyramid we go, the narrower it becomes. Responsibility changes and there are more demands and meetings which keep us often times behind the desk (translated: in the ivory tower). When that happens, we can lose touch with our employees, the pressure they are feeling and the reality of their day-to-day struggles.
Scary things leaders do anyway to ensure they don’t lose touch with reality…
- Leaders get out of the tower and out on the front lines where reality is taking place every day. “The desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” -anonymous. Leaders know they must be visible and accessible to the team.
- Leaders get their hands dirty. They roll up their sleeves and help out when needed. They understand the only way to add value to their team is to help the team out of a bind. Not by barking orders but by getting busy helping…even if helping is simply grabbing phones for an hour over lunch when the team is shorthanded, or handing tools to someone repairing equipment. Not every day, but when it makes sense to help, help, don’t get in the way.
- Leaders empower others. When the stakes are high, it is hard to let go and trust someone else with a project or task. But leaders know they can’t do everything. This is not delegating and disappearing. The first two may still come into play even when we delegate, however, empowering the team, frees the leader to focus on other projects, helps to develop future leaders, and motivates the team because they feel trusted. Empowerment is not empowerment without delegating all three phases: responsibility, authority and accountability. In other words, we can give someone responsibility for a project or task and authority to make decisions (with a few parameters such as not going over budget, etc), but they must also be willing to take accountability if the project fails. Accountability to accept the consequences of working around the clock to make it right or get the project back on track, or accepting a reprimand from the senior team, or other. All three phases must be present.
Leaders are visible and accessible, get their hands dirty and empower others even when they are scary because of time constraints, comfort levels or control issues. Leaders know some things are more important than our fears…the team.
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