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Empowered Leaders Empower Others

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Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, changed the company’s dress code policy by paring a ten-page document down to two words: “Dress appropriately.” Seems easy enough but it wasn’t: The Human Resources department deemed it unclear.

Really? Two words aren’t clear?

One department head was up in arms because occasionally customers visit, and the new policy gave no guidance as to how employees should dress when that happens.

Why must it be so complicated? Simplifying ten pages down to two words should be making things easier, not harder. In my mind it’s all about control.

As an entrepreneur, I find giving up control to be difficult because no one can do it better than I can. It’s faster and easier to do it myself rather than to show others how to do it. These are good excuses, but the reality is, I can only do so much by myself—and at some point, I become the bottleneck.

Speaking to many entrepreneurs, I’ve uncovered a common roadblock: oftentimes, they’re not seeing movement on many of their initiatives because they have too much on their plate. They’re afraid to give up control, and that fear slows the whole process down.

The solution is simple: empowerment and trust. Empower the right people to make the decisions for your vision and trust them to figure it out and execute. Not only does this foster a culture of communication but, collaboration and action as well.

Think about going to a restaurant and getting the wrong order or a cold meal. Most restaurants have empowered their employees to fix the issue right away rather than finding a manager to do it. Think of how much longer it would take to get a resolution: the manager would have to be debriefed of the situation, then come to the table where you’d have to repeat it, at which point he or she would finally decide whether to replace the meal. By empowering employees, that restaurant has eliminated those steps. Management is not a bottleneck and the customer is happy.

At J2, this ties directly into two of our core pillars: Service and Relationships. We trust our folks to do what’s right. We know sometimes they will make mistakes, but with clear guidelines we know those mistakes will be minimized.

In today’s environment where millennials are looking for autonomy, empowerment is a great way to entice them to join your company. I am not suggesting that as leaders we completely hand over the reins to others; there are guidelines. Still, empowerment and trust implemented correctly can build a cohesive team and save you time and energy in the process.

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” –Theodore Roosevelt

Have a great weekend.