As a manager your staff becomes trained to act the way you expect them to act. This is not something that happens just through conscious planning, how you handle each and every encounter creates a pattern of response. The type of response you give determines whether or not your team becomes independent thinkers or followers.
To create independent thinkers you must hold your team to a higher standard. This requires them to learn to identify solutions and act when needed without waiting for instruction. These are truly empowered employees. By having a team that can go out and get things done without constant input from you will generate more productivity and if managed well improves quality. Over the years I have seen managers who do this seemingly naturally, some who fight it every step of the way, ones who are obviously working towards it and others who do it purely accidentally. My observation has been that those who work at this have been promoted more often and their people are identified as high potential candidates. This type of management style creates a dynamic, growing and innovative organization. One that will see continued business success.
So how do you create independent thinkers? Here are several key actions that can help:
- As people gain experience allow them to act without reporting to you every step of the way. New employees need more guidance so provide it, however as they grow loosen the reins.
- When someone brings you a problem, ask them for their solutions before you provide one. As your team learns that you want their opinions they will start to think about how to resolve their own issues. As this happens the quality of ideas improves and you get fewer questions.
- Encourage new ideas and new ways to do the work of the team. Actively soliciting ideas and implementing as many as will work will get the team invested in building a better organization. They will then act more independently since they have a stake in it.
- Provide opportunities for each person to get outside of their comfort zone by giving them tougher assignments that require new skills or by giving them exposure to other parts of the organization. People respond to your confidence in them with more self-confidence.
- When someone is given the opportunity to move on to another position – let them go gracefully. People like working for managers who will allow them the chance to grow and progress in their career.
When your team is full of followers then you have a lot more work to do. It is on your shoulders to ensure every action is taken at the right time and in the right way. This is in addition to the things you have to do as the manager, that only the manager can do. Why create extra work for yourself? Help your team learn to act independently and to do it wisely and you will have more time to pursue your personal growth.
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