In almost every video game, there are special bonuses that convey advantages, such as more strength or firepower. These powerups can heal injuries, increase supremacy and accelerate a character’s ability to achieve the objectives and win a level or even the entire game.
Real-life powerups are available to leaders who foster interdependent relationships between all parties—managers, employees and co-workers. Interdependence creates a healthy dynamic where each individual does his or her part, versus a dependent relationship where one person, often the manager, shoulders all of the responsibility for making sure tasks are remembered and completed.
Powering up in this fashion requires:
Setting and communicating clear and reasonable expectations, since leaders are responsible for defining the objectives.
Instead of always telling people how to meet those expectations, asking instead how they plan to do it. Employees take greater ownership when they participate in determining how work gets done.
Once team members take responsibility for doing something, they keep it. Leaders undermine employees when they attempt to serve as their long-term memory.
True power as a leader comes not from how a manager wields authority, but in how he or she makes each person powerful by fostering personal responsibility, requiring people to keep doing the next right thing.
Last week I watched a common example of one individual serving as the intellect and conscience for another. It happened at Publix, our local grocery store, where my 17-year-old son Benjamin decided to apply for a job. Standing at the application kiosk was a couple, painfully going through the questions, discussing and debating each response. The woman, who was the one applying for a job, was insecure answering the questions on her own, instead, running each one by “her man” as she referred to him several times. Makes me wonder, if she gets the job, if he’ll be tagging along then, as well.
Leaders create an unhealthy, codependent relationship when they do something similar with employees. This practice is often caused by the open-door policy of many managers, who too often position themselves as being the go-to authority. As a result, the practiced dynamic is one in which the employees don’t have to come up with their answers, always relying on the boss for ideas and input. What often makes this worse is employees’ fear of being wrong or making a mistake.
Leadership Dependence, an all too common reality in companies, has caused leaders to be even more overwhelmed than ever and employees to be less self-sufficient. The alternative, Corporate Interdependence, promotes personal responsibility for doing the next right thing and engaging in collaboration where it’s actually needed.
To shift into Corporate Interdependence, managers simply need to ask more questions versus giving out answers. Saying “What would you do,” or “What’s the first step you could take,” begins to empower people to be more engaged, more responsible, and even more satisfied as they gain confidence in their own abilities. And often, leaders learn a few things themselves when employees come up with even better ideas.