A team that runs on auto-pilot is a dream for every manager. Every good manager likes mentoring and coaching the employees all the time and they know that the key is to make employees independent and capable of thinking on their feet. It reduces the efforts for the manager to run a solo show and also brings in some fresh inputs to the table.
“Optimal hours with the boss,” a study by Leadership IQ pointed out that employees who spent optimal hours (6 per week) with their line manager are 29% more inspired, 30% more engaged, and 16% more innovative. By these standards, one would assume that an increase in time spent with the leader would further increase innovation and engagement on the employees’ part. However, the exact opposite happens. If employees spend more than the optimal hours with their manager, their inspiration and innovation take a dip.
Another study by Vantage Point Performance found that top-performing sales managers spent less time with their team as compared to their peers, whose performance was not up to the mark.
Five ways to make Your Employees Independent
Coaching and guiding employees is an integral part of a manager’s job. But the motive should be clear. For a long term and sustainable performance, managers need to develop employees to think and act independently. Overall, employee development is the ultimate objective of mentoring them. Making employees independent and self-reliant cannot be achieved overnight. It is a continuous and consistent process. And more efforts are required from the manager than the employee himself.
Here are some steps that can help employees become more independent.
- Treat failures the right way - Decisions can go wrong for anybody. When employees are entrusted with the responsibility of making decisions, it makes them ready for the future. Regardless of the outcome, the manager should appreciate the effort and guide them for improvements. Negative reactions to failures can discourage employees from taking further responsibilities.
- Avoid micromanagement and practice delegation - Avoid the urge to do everything yourself and accept the fact that others will do the job differently. As long as the job is accomplished, it shouldn’t matter how it is done. Delegate work and avoid micromanaging the employees. Let them be accountable.
- Inculcate the culture of responsibility- Independence is the result of responsibility and accountability. And a culture that inculcates the characteristic of responsibility amongst the employees is gradually developing the same to be independent and take onus for their actions. Start with small tasks and slowly give more and more complex tasks.
- Employee Self Care - Small steps go a long way towards making people independent. Routine things like marking self-attendance, updating leaves and productivity, etc. put the responsibility on the employees to take their job roles seriously. Instead of relying on manual processes that make employees answerable to others, use apps or systems that create a sense of responsibility. This will make them less dependent on external forces to do their jobs diligently.
- Be open to new ideas- It is pointless creating a culture of independence if you are not open to new ideas and opinions. When you prepare employees to think on their own, prepare yourself to accept that the consequent new ideas or opinions may be different from yours. Some of these ideas may even question the status quo. But look beyond the current differences of opinions. If the idea adds something to the larger good, it should be acknowledged and respected.
The transition from a multi-tasking manager to one who delegates and supervises from a distance is not easy. It will be met with resistance, hesitation, failures, and mistakes very often. As a manager, you will have to train yourself to let go. As employees take more responsibilities, they may come to you for guidance initially. You need to understand that guidance means showing them the path, not walking them through it. They have to tread the path themselves, falling and getting up on their own, finding their way if they are lost. But you have to meet them at the end of the path to appreciate their efforts and encourage them to take up more and bigger responsibilities in the future. The end result will be more independent employees and enhanced performance of the team as a whole.
Not all employees respond favorably to the idea of more responsibilities. Some of them may not be cut out for the task. They may feel comfortable following a leader and doing what they are told. A manager has to gauge the employee’s capability and delegate accordingly. Giving out more responsibility than one can handle may lead to utter disappointment, and can have long term repercussions on employee morale. The key is to help them realize their potential and perform accordingly.
An Independent Team
A team’s performance is the sum total of the individual member’s performance. Not all members perform equally. But each member’s contribution is critical for the team. A manager’s task is to help them realize their potential.
An ideal team leader is the one who sometimes takes a back seat. Employees learn not only from their leaders but also from opportunities. Let them take charge of the opportunities and learn from their successes and even failures. Your goal is to create an environment that helps the team think and act independently, along with a culture that encourages employees to ask questions and find answers. Even if those answers are not the ones you are used to.
A culture that makes employees independent has a percolating effect. Employees who are mentored and made independent do the same for their subordinates. Such independent employees turn out to be valuable assets to the companies in the long run. They make significant contributions to the organizational goal and create a nurturing environment.