K&P leadership series: Enabling others to act

Sep 29, 2021

This is the fourth article of our seven-part K&P leadership series. Missed the previous article on challenging the process? Read it here.

Making the transition from employee to supervisor can be tough. Up until now, your skill set and your performance were all you needed to be successful. Now, as a supervisor, your team's performance defines your success.

In this new role, you're responsible for driving implementation of your organization's strategic goals. Yet there will be times when you will feel caught in the middle, between carrying out controversial assignments from your manager and keeping your team motivated when it may not see the purpose of the assignments.

“Enable others to act,” one of the five behaviors in the Kouzes and Posner (K&P) Leadership Challenge, can help you create an environment for your team that allows it to learn and grow while achieving your organization's goals. Enabling others focuses on helping you foster collaboration and grow your self-confidence to strengthen others—important skills for new supervisors.

Fostering collaboration

When you create an environment that fosters collaboration, you draw on others to align with you and work together toward your shared goals. It's the “we” factor that brings helping hands to the project and builds the trust necessary for successful teams. Bonds of trust grow in three primary ways:

  1. Increasing personal interactions: You don't really know someone until you spend time with them, and people don't trust others that they don't know. Day-to-day work gets accomplished via emails and phone calls. But if you really want to foster collaboration, you need to spend time face-to-face with your team, listening and sharing project-centric thoughts, values and dreams. Although the pandemic has limited our ability to meet with others in person, video conferencing—with cameras on—can help increase your personal connections.
  2. Keeping it positive: Good collaborators look forward to working together. This is not about avoiding bad news or uncomfortable conversations. In fact, honesty is important for trust-building. Make sure in your conversations with your team, that the positive-possible outweighs the worrisome-negative.
  3. Determining their currency: Don't focus on money; focus on what intrinsically motivates others. We can fall into the trap of believing that everyone values and desires what we do. Instead, great collaborators care about what motivates others and helps them achieve their dreams, too.

Strengthening others to act

Having the self-confidence to strengthen others to act will increase the success of your projects, grow more leaders, and make your management job easier. When you ensure your employees have key roles to play, they are more likely to contribute at higher levels. Strong supervisors strengthen others in three primary ways:

  1. Enlarge others' sphere of influence: Your employees accomplish more and sustain longer when they understand the whole system and know what part of that system they can control. When team members can make day-to-day decisions based on an agreed set of values and guidelines, they don't feel micromanaged and your job is easier.
  2. Make others' work relevant: True strengthening is giving power in the important areas, not just in busy work. Employees see through empty promises of empowerment. Enabling others requires that they take part in the critical areas of the project, learn how to correct their mistakes, and grow their confidence to stretch for the next assignment.
  3. Provide visible support: By making your support of your employees' empowerment visible, you are building a stronger, more motivated team. And when your team is successful, you're successful.

By fostering collaboration and strengthening others to act, you are building a stronger, more motivated team. When you enable others to act, you can take pride in their achievement and know that you created something that is not only a beautiful structure today, but a functional legacy that will last a lifetime.

Be on the lookout for the next article in the K&P series, which will address how to “encourage the heart.”