We’ve all encountered people who wield their power like a club, whether they work in corporate or government jobs.
Until relatively recently, most organizations were hierarchical, and most lower-level workers had little power or autonomy. As new technology has loosened managerial control, this has eased somewhat. While workers exhibit a greater willingness and ability to execute strategy, managers nonetheless often remain reluctant to share responsibility and authority. It may be that in our secret hearts, we all believe the right thing to do is to hold onto all the power we can, especially as we rise into the executive ranks.
When you were a kid, your parents probably made you share your toys. You may have done the same with your own kids. However, most people don’t want to share their riches. As an adult, pride, the desire to retain power, long experience at a job, a busy schedule, and a reluctance to let others do your job may hold you back from sharing your work responsibilities. But you’re not a polar bear or a parrot. As a human being, you don’t have to let hardwired instinct or your upbringing limit you.
Hugging your responsibility to your chest leads to micromanaging, fiefdom building, and information hoarding, none of which a healthy organization can afford in this era of lean speed and agility. If you’re a manager or exec, your superiors have given you responsibility for a reason: they know you can’t handle it all. They want you to parcel it out to other people.
The benefits of sharing responsibility far outweigh keeping it all to yourself. Among other things, sharing responsibility:
- Increases team morale
- Make your team members feel important and appreciated
- Helps you do more, faster
- Lets you focus on the big picture
- Prepares your successors for leadership
- Contributes to the success of your entire organization
- Keeps you from spreading yourself too thin
- Helps you maintain your health by avoiding overwork
- Gives you more experience as an executive
Responsibility sharing puts you ahead and gives you a chance to fix what’s not working without falling behind. There are few ways to more effectively trigger and maintain engagement than to share your responsibility.
The result is still your responsibility, so make careful decisions about who gets the authority; however, someone besides you has to take on all but the highest-level, most profitable decisions. Avoid being a “helicopter boss,” but keep track of everyone’s work and provide necessary guidance and coaching.
When workers are engaged, they’re more likely to own their jobs and dedicate their discretionary time to the company. This, if nothing else, should clinch the argument for sharing, because happy, engaged workers are productive workers—and their success reflects well on you.
© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, is America’s Premier Expert in Productivity™. For over 20 years, Laura has worked with business leaders to execute more efficiently, boost performance, and accelerate results in the workplace. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides productivity workshops around the globe to help attendees achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. Laura is the bestselling author of six books, with over 20 foreign editions, published by Random House, Wiley, and Berrett-Koehler, including her newest work, Execution IS the Strategy (March 2014). Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.