Leaders crave a way to increase the horsepower of their organization. And, by horsepower, what I really mean is manpower.
It shows up in questions and conversations like, “How do we keep our people motivated and engaged?” “How can we get people to give us their best?” “What does it take to get more people to volunteer or volunteer more of themselves?”
I would argue that building an empowering environment is one of the greatest contributions leaders can make to unleashing the potential of their people. Piece by piece, it isn’t complicated at all, but it takes intentionality.
So, let's look at it piece by piece. This is the first of six installments on how on how you can create an empowering environment.
Give People a Compelling Reason
Knowing why it all matters comes first. Your people—employees and volunteers alike—need to know what is at stake and how their contribution directly addresses it. Every church, non-profit, business, or any other type of enterprise is actually populated by volunteers. Even with a paycheck involved, employees volunteer themselves to the challenges of the task at hand. And, the do so every single day. Or, they don't.
In the day-to-day grind, people lose sight of the reason behind task they are responsible for. There's no devious plot, it’s just human nature. It happens to you and me. In the midst of detailed and often mundane steps natural to fulfilling any assignment, it is human nature to lose sight of the big picture. Individual trees dominate our field of vision and we forget about the forest.
You see, vision has a half-life of seven days. That is to say, no matter how strong and clear the vision for what you are doing is today, in seven days it will only be half as clear and half as strong. Seven days later another half-life evaporates. Within 28 days, no matter how strong and clear your initial vision was, you will be limping along on the fumes of a vague memory, with vision clarity a meager 6½% of its original strength.
A mission statement on a brass plaque in the lobby only collects dust.
Smart leaders always connect the dots for others. They are always talking about why the things you are doing matter so much. They get creative about finding ways to paint pictures of the compelling reason behind your work. They tell stories of the impact you are all making. An annual push for vision will never be enough. People buy in when the compelling reason behind their effort is current and clear.
Without a compelling reason:
People are left to work out of duty or obligation alone. And, working solely out of duty is the pathway to burnout.
People compete for resources based on personality or positional power rather than vision and strategy.
Turf wars become the order of the day.
Pettiness reigns! FYI: Pettiness is one indicator of the lack of compelling vision.
Get creative. Brainstorm a bit. What could you do?
Could you tell a fresh story illustrating the compelling purpose of your organization?
Could you reward personal or even departmental behavior that is fully aligned with the reason you exist?
After you give it a try, post a comment about your experience.