Create a Culture of Responsibility
If you're looking to get the most out of your employees--and to help them get the most out of their jobs--it's not enough to just empower or engage them. You've got to make sure that your people accept responsibility for the work they do--both the good and the bad. When things go well, then they get the credit. But when things don't go well, then they must learn to accept responsibility for these outcomes too.
Here's how to encourage employee responsibility in your organization:
Give employees the freedom to define the "right" approach.
When something goes wrong--and as every entrepreneur knows, it surely will--let the employees who are responsible for the problem figure out the best approach for addressing it. Set the standards, but allow your people to decide exactly how they will attain them. Be sure you delegate both the responsibility and the freedom to decide how to make things right.
Encourage a sense of ownership.
Give employees the opportunity to experience all aspects of a product, from inspecting their work to dealing with customers. When they are directly involved in more than one small or isolated area, they will feel a greater sense of ownership within the organization. People will always work harder for something they feel they have ownership of. Trust them to make the right choices, but also make sure your employees know that you are available for advice, if needed.
Expect employees to make their own decisions.
If you have to approve every decision that's made in your business, then something is very wrong. Push decision-making down to the lowest level possible in your organization. To ensure your people make the right decisions, however, make sure they are trained to make decisions, and that you and your leadership team model the kinds of outcomes you want your employees to achieve.
Instill pride in the job and in the organization.
Keep track of your organization's results, and show every employee how the job he or she does contributes to these outcomes. Reward those employees, teams and departments that are meeting or exceeding their goals, and work closely with those who are not. When employees know that they play an important role in the success of your business--and you take time to recognize their contributions--you will help instill pride throughout the entire organization, raising the bar for everyone.
Reward employees who step up.
Some employees instinctively take responsibility in the workplace, but others will have a harder time doing so. Encourage them by recognizing and rewarding their exceptional performance. When work is not satisfactory, privately help correct mistakes and show clearly how things could--and should--be done differently in the future.
Taking responsibility is not something you can force employees to do, but, by taking these actions, you will start empowering your organization to be a place where even the most basic tasks are not only met, but exceeded. As your employees gain confidence in their abilities, they will make increasingly important decisions, helping to move your organization forward. Make every role in your company a meaningful one, and employee pride and responsibility will soar.
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While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.