It's far too easy to let your organization get stuck in the leader/follower rut, where you end up doing all the leading, and everyone else just follows along. Remember these five words: You can't do it all.
You hired great employees for a reason, so put all their skills to work by enlarging your leadership circle. When you encourage your employees to expand their roles in your company, you give each one of them a chance to show their creativity in different ways. The result? Better ideas and a happier, more engaged workforce.
Here are some tried-and-true ways to expand your leadership circle and get the best from your people every day:
1. Create a Supportive Environment
If you want your employees to take initiative at work (and believe me, you do), they have to know that you support them. Give your people the freedom to take chances and experiment with new ideas, and to make decisions within their areas of responsibility. Shine a spotlight on your employees by letting them take the credit for their own successes. Be sure that all managers understand the importance of sharing leadership--and reward those who delegate well.
2. Provide All Your Employees With Leadership Training
Most organizations only offer leadership training to supervisors and managers, but in order for all employees to successfully take on leadership roles, they must first be properly trained. Since not all hires have experience in leadership, it's important to offer training to all employees. Pair experienced leaders with followers and encourage them to learn from each other and to switch roles when appropriate.
3. Encourage Employees to Act
Every employee has the ability to make a positive impact on your organization and on your customers and clients. Show your employees that you value them and their contributions while actively encouraging them to take initiative to act and to try new approaches to old problems. The most successful companies have figured out the importance of making their employees feel important--and they actively take steps to do it.
4. Throw Out the Org Chart
Okay, while you might not be ready to toss your organization chart into the trash, why not stick it in a drawer and forget about it for a while? Instead of deciding who the leaders in your organization are or who they should be, let them emerge on their own. Leaders tend to lead, and you will soon know who wants to step up. You'll also soon know which employees would prefer to let others lead. That's okay--every organization needs leaders and followers.
5. Reward Leadership Behavior
Taking on a leadership role can be very intimidating for many employees--especially those who have never been in a formal position of leadership before. Encourage your employees to lead by rewarding and reinforcing leadership behavior. Give raises or promotions when your people are willing to take on higher-level roles and responsibilities--or to set the bar even higher--and you will find more employees from all levels of your organization who are willing to lead.
By expanding your leadership circle, you will tap into the full potential of your people and your organization. With the economy still on the mend, you need your employees' contributions now more than ever.