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Bankable Leadership: Empowerment requires smart risks

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The following is the fifth excerpt from New York Times best-selling author and executive coach Dr. Tasha Eurich’s new book Bankable Leadership.   

If empowerment is so wonderful, you might ask, why do so many companies have trouble granting it? Well, I see well-intentioned leaders fail to grant autonomy because of fear. Let’s go back to Todd Habliston, the oil and gas leader whom we met in the introduction. When Todd started his journey, he made a conscious decision to assume the risk of empowerment. He wanted to take more vacations, delegate more work, and allow his team to take on more responsibility. He realized and accepted that mistakes would be made.

His first experiment was to have the team create the budget for the next year. He asked his employees if they’d present the budget to the board, noting his confidence in their ability and his willingness to help them. Most enthusiastically accepted, telling him how excited they were about the opportunity. But as anticipated, there were a few staff members who were uncomfortable with the gravity of the assignment. Todd worked with them to understand their fear.

When he learned it was lack of knowledge of some elements of the budgeting process that frightened them, he offered weekly lunch-and-learns. At the end of the process, the team had done a great job. More importantly, Todd had taken a risk that paid off. He managed risk along the way, and his team was more engaged than ever. Todd’s boss and the board were absolutely thrilled with the team’s work.

Here are a few questions to start to help you get the empowerment process started in your own team. I recommend starting simply, as Todd did, because if you start throwing projects at your employees willy-nilly, you’ll just create chaos.

  • Make a list of all the things you’re doing. What do you have to do and what do you want to do? Are the things you want to do really things you should be doing? Are you hoarding the interesting projects or the projects that you owned before you got promoted?
  • Meet with your employees to figure out what makes them tick—what areas they’d like to do more work in, learn about, etc. Find one additional responsibility for each employee and give them latitude to make decisions related to it.
  • Make a list of the decisions that require your approval or work product that requires your review. Can you delegate any approvals or reviews to your team?

Look for more excerpts from Bankable Leadership on CDN in the coming weeks.

Dr. Tasha Eurich is a proud leadership geek, executive coach, speaker, and author, Dr. Eurich is the author of the new book, Bankable Leadership: Happy People, Bottom Line Results, and the Power to Deliver Both.  She also helps organizations succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders and teams.  Dr. Eurich passionately pairs her scientific grounding in human behavior with a practical approach to solving some of today’s most common leadership challenges. Her decade-long career has spanned roles as an external consultant and a direct report to both CEOs and human resources executives. The majority of Dr. Eurich’s work has been with executives in large Fortune 500 organizations, including CH2M HILL, Xcel Energy, Western Union, IHS, Destination Hotels and Resorts, Newmont Mining, Centura Health, CoBiz Financial, the City of Cincinnati, and HCA.

With an M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Colorado State University and B.A.s in Theater and Psychology from Middlebury College, she serves on the faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership. She has served as an adjunct faculty member in Colorado State University’s Psychology and Business Schools. She is also a popular guest speaker at the University of Denver and Colorado State University’s Executive MBA programs.