HOW TO EMPOWER EMPLOYEES
By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.
2 out of 5 employees say they
don't have the decision-making authority they need.
Part 1 - THE PROBLEM:
Employees feel micro-managed, so it is no wonder that 2 out of 5
employees feel that they don't have the decision-making authority that they
need to do their jobs well. Here are some common complaints about
micro-management that I here frequently from employees:
"They won't allow me to make
even the simplest decisions."
"The red tape here makes it
very difficult for me to do my job."
"Management has to sign off
on everything; they don't trust me."
A culture of micro-management often leads to a slow-moving work
force that is minimally productive, lacks self-motivation, and is unable to
take prudent business risks or make innovative changes.
The problem of micro-management has several origins:
- Top Down Mirroring
The CEO or President micro-manages his or her
direct staff. The staff then unconsciously adopts the same management style
with their direct reports. The practice spreads, or "mirrors" itself,
throughout the organization and becomes part of the culture.
- Too Many Chiefs, Not Enough Indians
Organizations with an abundance of middle managers
often suffer from micro-management. To justify their existence, these managers
feel that they need to make all of the decisions for their employees.
- Externally-Imposed Paranoia
Highly regulated industries, such as food and
pharmaceutical manufacturing and nuclear power generation plants, frequently
suffer from micro-management. Employees are given very little latitude to
deviate from standard operating procedures. The unfortunate result is that
these employees are not given the opportunity to think for themselves, even
when such thinking is critically important.
In today's difficult economy, managers live in
perpetual fear that their department better produce or else. This fear drives
them to micro-manage, rather than trust their employees to make the appropriate
- Poor Hiring Decisions
Many organizations do not make it a priority to
select employees who are capable of thinking on their own. The organization is
then compelled to micro-manage them.
- The False Belief that Power is Finite
Managers are often under the mistaken impression
that there is a finite amount of power in the organization and it is their job
to amass as much of it as possible. They therefore do not allow their employees
to make decisions by themselves because that would be giving up their own
power. Nothing could be further from the truth. The more management allows
employees to make decisions for themselves, the more powerful the entire
organization will be.
Part 2 - WHAT MANAGEMENT CAN DO
Successfully tying pay to job performance is possible but very
difficult to accomplish. Here are a few principles that can help.
- Start at the Top
Hire an executive coach to help the CEO learn to
trust and delegate to subordinates. Managers will then likely follow suit with
their own direct reports.
- Ask Employees
Use focus groups and individual interviews to
learn from employees what decision-making authority they feel they need to do
their jobs well. Then communicate this information to their supervisors.
- Put Yourself in Their Shoes
It is very easy for managers to lose perspective
about what decisions their employees really need to make by themselves.
Managers should ask themselves, what decisions would I need to make if I were
doing that job?
- Train Managers
Delegating, letting go, and trusting employees are
all skills that can be taught. During the training, those few managers that ARE
doing a good job of delegating should be asked to share their "best practices"
with other managers in the organization.
- Be Willing to Change
Managers often know in their hearts that they are
micro managing, but are unable to change old habits. Good managers are willing
to try new approaches and take risks.
In summary, the lack of decision-making authority afforded
employees is a pervasive organizational problem. Micro-management is the
culprit. Reducing the tyranny of micro-management requires management to
recognize the problem and proactively address it.
I am very much
interested in your views on this topic.
Please reply with your comments and
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