There was a boss who complained that everyone around him was a “potted plant.” He couldn’t understand why his managers wouldn’t take charge of an idea or come up with solutions. In his management meetings, if a manager suggested how to handle a problem or come up with solution, he would tell them how they could do it better or differently. Or, he would argue that they were wrong.
He didn’t realize he was killing commitment and innovation. Managers retreated from taking the risk of speaking up for fear of being called out for having a bad idea. Or, as executive coach Marshall Goldsmith says, they lost their commitment.
Goldsmith says when a boss adds comments or “has to be right”, s/he immediately causes “their ideas to become your ideas.” When that happens, their commitment to making an idea happen diminishes because it is no longer their idea. They don’t have ownership.
In Goldsmith’s effective leadership skills DVD training, he teaches how leaders can make the behavior changed needed to empower their teams to innovate and solve problems.
Goldsmith recently wrote in the Harvard Business Review on how leaders can create organizations that empower people:
- Give power to those who have demonstrated the capacity to handle the responsibility.
- Create a favorable environment in which people are encouraged to grow their skills.
- Don’t second-guess others’ decisions and ideas unless it’s absolutely necessary. This only undermines their confidence and keeps them from sharing future ideas with you.
- Give people discretion and autonomy over their tasks and resources.
Goldsmith says, “ Most employees (future leaders) see the value in finding empowerment and are willing to take on the responsibilities that come with it. If future leaders have the wisdom to learn from the experience of present leaders, and if present leaders have the wisdom to build an environment that empowers people, both will share in the benefits.”
Instead of potted plants, you’ll have farmers and hunters solving problems and innovating new products and services.