The saying, "the devil is in the details" is true in all organizational and business environments. Often when leaders take the time to empower their employees and teams to handle minor details and problems, major problems are avoided or at least minimized.
The process of transformation and change with an organization demands that countless decisions be made on a daily basis. The concept of effective leadership drives decisions lower within the organization to the front lines so that decisions can be made quickly where and when they count. While leaders must be in the midst of their organization monitoring what is happening and assisting where needed, they cannot be omnipresent, nor can they make all decisions required to make the organization run smoothly.
It is vital that leaders enable and rely on employees to handle details and small problems on their own, as these are the situations and circumstances where trust and empowerment are formed. An atmosphere of trust encourages and empowers employees to take risks and make decisions "on the fly" when they are needed. Often many of these minor decisions directly impact both their workplace and productivity by resolving nagging problems and frustrations--and avoiding major problems later on.
Leaders Cannot Be Everywhere at Once
Leaders must understand that as they cannot be omnipresent they have the tools of delegation, empowerment and trust at their disposal to extend their reach to all corners of the organization. While they can and should be present within the organization and actively interacting with their employees, they must also trust their people to solve problems and frustrations without their direct intervention, unless the issue is beyond the scope of the employee's/workgroup's responsibility.
Empowering individuals to resolve issues before they blossom into larger and more expensive problems to solve also frees the leader to address more important problems and responsibilities.
Delegate and Empower
Leaders must create a positive atmosphere of trust where minor problems, details and issues can be effectively resolved by individual frontline employees, workgroups and teams. While this process may start slowly, especially when it hasn't been freely employed in the past, leaders and employees must develop a growing bond of trust allowing them to make more tactical decisions, with the leader daily interacting and monitoring activities.
Push Decision Making to the Frontline Employee
Regardless of their capacity or station, the frontline employee must be trained to be the eyes of the organization. These employees have an up close gritty and extremely useful perspective of what is happening "in the trenches" of the organization. Once trained, they see what is happening and what is causing problems and frustrations, where in the past they might have either ignored these concerns out of fear or apathy or reported them and hoped for the best. Now rather than waiting for the bureaucratic process to resolve problems, or being reluctant, leaders have equipped their people to generate solutions "on the fly."
Encourage and Reward Risk Taking
When decision-making is driven downward to frontline employees, levels of reluctance and fear may surface. There will be fear of the repercussions of making the wrong decision, especially if a more risk-adverse environment existed in the past. Each individual decision has some risk associated with it. There is always the likelihood that the decision will be wrong, further complicating the problem.
Leaders must foster an atmosphere where employees are encouraged to make careful decisions regardless of circumstances. In every situation employees consider all aspects of their decisions and associated risks. They make informed decisions based upon their personal experience, expertise and the available information shared with them.
Learn from Mistakes and Failures
While employees are being cultivated to make informed decisions, it is easy to review the basis for decisions and the reasons why they may have turned out poorly. Once looked at, lessons can be derived from the mistake or failure. Within the confines of a learning organization, mistakes and failures should be encouraged since this is only how employees can learn and grow.
Organizations with zero-tolerance for mistakes and failures are only fooling themselves, as even of course with these rigid standards, mistakes and failures happen--and are often hidden from managers and leaders. These poor outcomes fester into bigger problems, often blindsiding leadership later and derailing any or much of the progress made.
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Cover Image courtesy of Jez Page.