5 Steps to Reduce the Leadership Power Gap

reduce gap

The Leader Architect

 

Recently I read The Leader Architect by business leader Jim Grew. It was a practical guide written by someone who has clearly wrestled with the issues facing many leaders. In one section of the book, he discussed the need to reduce the power between leaders and followers. I reached out to ask if we could excerpt that section with his permission as I believe it is insightful:

 

Reducing the Power Gap

The doorway to change is reducing the power gap and the communications gap between you the leader and your people.

Here are five steps you can take to reduce the power gap in your organization.

 

Get over your title.

It’s an invitation to contribute, not a statement of rank. Colin Powell, one of the highest-ranking generals in the United States, said, “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” If you imagine yourself as helper instead of leader, you’re off to a good start.

 

“Leadership is solving problems.” -Colin Powell

 

Don’t lean on your ability to fire people.

That ability looms in the background of all employees, but it is of tiny consequence to the business. It is not an element of leadership; it’s emotional blackmail. If you rely on it, you’ll get the response of people who feel blackmailed—all defense and no initiative. Usually, if you must fire a person, it’s your failure for hiring them or not training them. Occasionally, folks self-select out, but not often.

 

Apply railroad leadership.

When you walk around, stop, look, and listen (especially listen). You don’t have to produce brilliant anything, other than thanks.

 

10 Vital Empowerment Factors

empowerment
This is an excerpt from Fat Cats Don’t Hunt: Implanting the Right Leadership and Culture to Accelerate Innovation and Organic Growth by Jim Hlavacek, PhD. Jim has over 40 years of global experience as a businessman, strategy consultant, and management educator.

Empower Your Employees

For employees to be empowered, they must have control of their immediate environments.

They must have the necessary mindsets and skill sets—either through hiring or training—to do their jobs effectively and authority to make decisions that maximize the quality, speed, and effectiveness of their work outcomes.

Following are ten key factors that must be present for employees to begin to feel empowered and act on doing what is right for themselves, their company, and their customers:

  1. Theory Y leadership. Company leadership must demonstrate McGregor’s Theory Y management style, in which authority is shared. Theory X leadership, in which all decisions are made from the top down, and cultures in which employees are empowered to make decisions instantly in their realms of responsibility and expertise, are by default, mutually exclusive.

 

“The process of spotting fear and refusing to obey it is the source of all true empowerment.” -Martha Beck

 

  1. Redistribution of power. Per #1, senior managers must be totally committed to the redistribution of power and authority. This presents one of the greatest challenges to culture transformation. Theory X managers at every level of a company have significant difficulty giving up control over even small decisions.

 

“Autonomy leads to empowerment.” -Bobby Kotick

 

  1. Bottom-up decision making. In the old bureaucratic control model, brainpower is assumed to be located only with management in the hierarchy. But this has proven not to be true. As customers have become more demanding, front-line teams have been tasked with responding swiftly to them. As a result, the emphasis moved in some companies from optimizing efficiencies from top to bottom to developing more flexible, innovative and responsible decision-making by close-to-the-customer teams. By default, visionary companies moved away from control and compliance management models to a greater emphasis on entrusting individuals and teams with expertise in their areas to act in the best interests of their companies and customers. In a more committed and empowered organization, front-line workers have the authority to halt a production line or solve customer complaint decisions on the spot, without getting okays from managers higher up in the hierarchy.

 

Leadership Tip: empower front-line workers as much as possible.

4 Ways to Practice Conspicuous Humility

humility
This is an excerpt from Leading With Edge by Jose R. Costa. Jose is currently the CEO of For Eyes, a leader in optical retail.

 

Practice Humility

It may sound counterintuitive, but humility is a quality that often needs to be put on display. If you believe you have all the answers, think you are always right, or are somehow above others because of your position, or if the people around you perceive that, then they aren’t as likely to come to you with their knowledge, ideas, or opinions—not unless they have to.

 

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” -Thomas Merton

 

So, how do you do this? There are acts of humility that you can make a point of practicing that will help people feel more comfortable around you, encourage them to be open and honest with you, and make it easier for them to contribute their thoughts and ideas. You can convey a sense of humility in big ways and small. Here are some simple ways that any leader can incorporate humility into his/her day-to-day work:

1) De-emphasize hierarchy

I never state my title when I introduce myself to someone, especially someone junior to me. Saying I’m the CEO or in charge of such-and-such only reinforces a feeling of hierarchy or superiority. So does sitting in a big corner office while your team members crowd together in cubicles. That’s why, when I became the CEO of For Eyes by GrandVision, I moved my desk, as well as those of all the company’s managers, out to the floor so we could sit with our teams. In an article for The Washington Post, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, was once quoted as saying: “The moment you discover in life that it’s not about yourself, that it is about investing in others, I think you’re entering a steadier state to be a great leader. Because above all, I think the main quality of a leader is to be a human being. There’s no reason you are special because you happen to have this job.” (“The Tao of Paul Polman” by Lillian Cunningham, The Washington Post, May 21, 2015.)

When I was in marketing at a quick-service restaurant chain, there was a franchise owner who was very successful. He owned close to one hundred restaurants in a region where the chain was very popular, and his business did very well. Over the years, he became a very wealthy guy and it showed. He drove an extremely expensive car. He dressed in extremely expensive, tailored suits. He always wore a big gold wristwatch. Everything about him screamed money and ostentatiousness. And this was how he would present himself when he walked into the fast food restaurants he owned—where the people working for him were only making about $7.00 an hour. Many of these people were barely making ends meet, so it was no wonder that his employees often seemed to lack energy or enthusiasm for their jobs. Based on what I saw, they were always polite to him, but I got the feeling that they didn’t really like or respect him. He was successful, sure, but I always wondered how much more successful he could have been had he practiced humility in the way he presented himself to his team.

After meeting with the franchisee a few times, I became more conscious of how I dressed and presented myself around different people. I have nothing against you enjoying the fruits of your labor, but I do think that should be balanced against an awareness of and respect for other people’s positions and circumstances. It’s important for people to know who’s in charge, but that’s different from rubbing their faces in it.

 

“Success is not a function of the size of your title but the richness of your contribution.” -Robin Sharma

The Benefits of Leaders Asking Powerful Questions

questions

 

This is a guest post by Fred Halstead, founder and principal of Halstead Executive Coaching and author of Leadership Skills That Inspire Incredible Results*.

 

The Leadership Skill of Asking Questions

Powerful questions will help you learn both about the person you’re speaking with and the subject you’re discussing. You can find out how the person thinks and what is important to them, based upon what they say and don’t say. The more you continue to ask powerful questions, the more you will accomplish both. This confirms George Bernard Shaw’s point: “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” So often we fall into a trap in which we believe we understand each other and grasp the concepts being explained, only to later find that it was almost as if we were speaking a different language to one another. Continual probing and on-target questions will help both you and the other person arrive at the best solution and learn more about each other and yourselves.

 

“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” -George Bernard Shaw

 

It seems obvious since we spent two chapters discussing the importance of listening, but when a question is asked, allow the other person the time to respond. You want to be sure that thought processing and critical thinking are at play. I had one client who felt that the reason the respondent didn’t answer immediately was that he or she didn’t have an answer. If you want a quick answer, there is a really low probability that you will gain a truly thoughtful answer. If your expectation from a thought-provoking question is a quick answer, you risk the other person being frustrated in a nonproductive way, with you and with themselves.

Powerful questions also satiate your sense of curiosity. When you are curious, you want to learn more and you will more naturally ask questions in ways that will maximize the other person’s thinking. When the right question does not come to mind or the person was not clear in what he or she said or was trying to say, you can always respond: “Tell me more about that.” This simple phrase will expand the other person’s thinking as they further verbalize their thoughts and your understanding of what they are saying. When one is not naturally curious, the desire to respect the other person by exploring their thinking provides a solid motivation to ask questions that bring out the person’s best thinking. Instead of saying, “Stay thirsty, my friend,” as Jonathan Goldsmith did in the Dos Equis ads, say to yourself, “Stay curious, my friend.” Lack of curiosity can be the foe of getting to the best result.

 

“Lack of curiosity can be the foe of getting to the best result.” -Fred Halstead

 

Powerful questions are perfect for discussing sensitive matters. Asking difficult, tough, or edgy questions can be hard for even the most veteran leaders, but those who want their colleagues and team members to succeed will of course need to ask some from time to time. As a coach, I ask those questions fairly often to bring out my client’s very best thinking. When the person is asked a tough question that reflects on them personally, you will find it interesting, maybe surprising, and rewarding to first ask for their permission to ask a difficult question.

The typical question is simply something like: “May I ask you a tough question about all of this?” (This is one example of when a yes/no question is wise.)leadership skills book cover

Tough or difficult questions are direct and go to the heart of personal accountability and, at the same time can inspire a higher level of performance. Examples of such questions include: “In retrospect, what could you have done differently to create the outcome we wanted?” or “What was an even better way for you to handle that?” These questions will help them reflect on their decisions and actions, and also on what they can do in the future to improve. A question such as, “What do you need to do to greatly improve this situation?” or “What specifically will you commit to do differently when this or a similar situation arises?” may feel too pointed at first, but it will lead to them being more reflective and thoughtful, help them avoid the same actions in the future, and to grow as a leader. These kinds of pointed questions also demonstrate that you care about them as a person and you care about their success—and they reflect clearly on who is responsible. They have no sense of “gotcha,” which tends to make it about you more than their responsibility.

 

“When you are curious, you want to learn more and you will more naturally ask questions in ways that will maximize the other person’s thinking.” -Fred Halstead

 

Ask Questions that Touch the Core

How to Lead with Joy with Richard Sheridan

Click above to watch our video interview.

The How of Great Leadership

 

There are some books that I read, perhaps take a few notes, and then move on. There are others that are dog-eared, have my notes in the margin, and become reference guides. Today I am sharing one of those books.

This is one that I will recommend to aspiring leaders everywhere. It’s written by Richard Sheridan, CEO and cofounder of Ann Arbor-based Menlo Innovations. Menlo has won the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility for six straight years and many other awards.

Richard’s philosophy and focus are similar to my own. He zeroes in on culture, on servant leadership, on self-understanding, and on teaching others to lead. After reading his new book, Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear, I was pleased to continue the conversation. Watch our interview to learn more.

 

“A man is what he thinks about all day long.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“If we encourage people to build relationships in a safe environment where they feel valued, not threatened, the masks can start to come off.” -Richard Sheridan

 

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.” -Walt Disney