Leaders crave for 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 do help people give us their best?” “What does it take to get more people to volunteer or to volunteer more of themselves?”
Creating an empowering environment is a way to do just that.
I want to argue that building an empowering environment is one of the greatest contributions leaders can make to unleashing the potential of people. Piece by piece, it isn’t complicated at all, but it takes intentionality.
This is the first of six articles on how to create an empowering environment.
Creating an Empowering Environment #1:
Give Them A Compelling Reason
Knowing why comes first. Your people—employees and volunteers alike—need to know what is at stake and how their contribution is directly connected to it. Every church, non-profit, business, or enterprise of any sort is actually populated by volunteers. Even when there is a paycheck involved, employees volunteer themselves to the challenges of the task at hand every day.
In the day-to-day people lose sight of the reason behind what they are doing. It isn’t a 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 responsibility, 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, seven days from now it will only be half as clear and half as strong. Seven days later another half-life evaporated. Within 28 days, no matter how strong and clear initial vision was, you will be limping along with a meager 6½% of its original strength.
This means smart leaders are always asking connecting the dots for people. 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. An annual vision push will never be enough. People respond when the compelling reason motivating 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! Pettiness is a clear indicator of the absence of compelling vision.
A brass plaque in the lobby won’t get the job done. Get creative. 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, consider coming back and posting a comment about your experience. And, come back in a couple days for the next installment in this seven-part series.