Mindful Humans

How to empower your collaborators

The sense of responsibility depends on the values and personal predispositions of each individual. However, it can be encouraged by favorable circumstances or undermined if the conditions for success are not met.
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Initially published in Revue Gestion.

The sense of responsibility is an essential condition for your success and that of your team. If you are convinced that your team members are fully engaged, you will be reassured that they are doing everything they can to succeed. You will have peace of mind and be able to focus on other priorities. Conversely, if you believe that they are not taking their responsibilities to heart, you will be concerned about the situation, and the results may be disappointing.

However, you may be partly responsible for their disengagement. Some elements of your management style may lead to their disempowerment, particularly the degree of autonomy you grant them.

Here are some practices to avoid:

 

Dictating what to do and how to do it

Do you like to tell your collaborators precisely how to do things, step by step? If so, they may become entangled in your explanations. Naturally, they might have done things differently. Thus constrained by your directives, they may feel less effective and perceive your attitude as a lack of recognition of their skills. This will affect their level of accountability.

 

Making all the decisions

If you decide everything or often overturn decisions made by your collaborators, you demonstrate a lack of trust. Team members may then feel compelled to check everything with you, which will undermine their autonomy and sense of responsibility.

 

Taking over others’ work

When you redo the work that a collaborator has started to speed up the process or because you believe you will produce a better result than theirs, you also affect their sense of responsibility. Next time, they might rely on your intervention, and consequently, they will not invest as much as necessary. Not to mention that this could fuel their cynicism towards you.

 

Granting an adequate level of autonomy

The more autonomy you grant to your team members, the more responsible they will feel for achieving results. If the way to achieve them is up to them, their level of engagement will be even higher because they will no longer be able to hide behind others’ decisions. And all the merits (or almost!) will belong to them.

However, you should not leave your collaborators alone to face their challenges. This would be like a cold shower. If you abandon them in front of a task that is insurmountable for them, their motivation will plummet.

Consider adjusting follow-ups according to the complexity of the task and the level of experience and autonomy of your collaborators. If they are experts and autonomous, give them a wide range of options to achieve the expected results. This will motivate them.

Conversely, if they are inexperienced, be present to help them overcome the obstacles they encounter while allowing them to find solutions. Your contribution will be even more positive if you encourage them to think and find ways to succeed by questioning them judiciously.

Your team will thus gain skills and confidence and will feel more responsible for its success next time.

Some points for reflection

Here are some questions that could help you determine if your management style is contributing to the disempowerment of your collaborators:

 

  • To what extent does your delegation style contribute to empowering your collaborators?
  • Do you tend to micromanage, regardless of others’ skills? Are you thus stifling their sense of responsibility?
  • On the contrary, do you tend to delegate a task without follow-up, expecting the final result? This could be detrimental to less experienced individuals.
  • Do you find yourself somewhere between laissez-faire and micromanagement?
  • What could you improve to better empower your collaborators?
  • Are you familiar with coaching principles? Acting as a coach is an asset for a manager. This skill could encourage your collaborators to feel responsible in addition to developing their talents.
  • Do you have a habit of asking open-ended questions? This approach is a remarkable tool to help your collaborators explore solutions to their challenges and contribute to developing their ability

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