Have you seen them? Those incredibly long cargo trains that keep you sitting at the crossing for 10-15 minutes? Living in rural America, I see them often. They’re actually quite amazing.
Aside from the fact that they are transporting important cargo at a lower price-point, helping keep our economy on a positive trajectory, the sheer physics of how much weight those engines are pulling over steep mountain passes is staggering.
Those trains often have locomotives not only at the head of the train, but also in the middle, and sometimes, at the end. Between all those engines, are cargo cars that have different purposes; those purposes are not always interchangeable.
Effective organizations work similarly.
There are leaders at the head of the company that set the overall direction, leaders in the middle that keep everything on track so that the “train” doesn’t derail, and leaders at the end making sure the day-to-day operations are cared for.
Between all of those leaders are many professionals who have different jobs and expertise.
If the managers push or pull too hard, the tension stretches everything to a breaking point and the corporate train breaks apart.
If the managers don’t trust staff to do their jobs and take over, they waste not only their own time and energy, but create a demoralizing environment. Staff questions their purpose. Maybe the oil tanker should try to become a refrigerator car instead?
If the managers don’t give any direction, the staff will go in many different directions without one cohesive plan.
What’s a manager to do? Here are 4 practices that will help you keep your train moving forward and making progress.
- Share the organization’s vision and goals. Where is the company going and why is it important to you to go there? This is not a one-and-done moment. In order to make this part of your organization’s systematic track, these need to be regular, consistent conversations.
- Listen. Ask a cross-section of your organization what is important to them. You will get everything from having a place to smoke when weather is bad to solving world hunger. In all of that information, you will begin to get to know where your company culture currently is and what you need to work on to become a better communicator.
- Care. The people who work for you spend more time at the office than they do with their own families and interests. Yes, you are paying them for their time, but if you make your staff feel valued, as individuals, you will improve your productivity and reduce turnover, thereby, ultimately saving the company time and retaining intellectual capital. You will create a cohesive sense of synergy.
- Lead. You hired these individuals to do a job because they had the skills, or potential, to do the job. Communicate clear expectations, set deadlines, set boundaries, and give them the latitude to make decisions and be effective in their role. The cargo holder can hold up to two tons of material. If the person loading the train doesn’t load it correctly, the engines have to work harder and become inefficient. If the cargo carrier is allowed to do the job it was designed for, the train runs more smoothly. You and your staff are similar.
Staff empowerment is more than you, as a manager, letting go of control. It is actually, you effectively leading your organization forward so you can transport important goods to your customers.
Follow these four steps and you will not only have much more satisfied customers, you will have an organization where people look forward to coming to work.