Ask Andrea: How do I get my staff to take ownership and responsibility and drop the excuses and blame?
I’ll start with a quick introduction as this is my first Ask Andrea for Tropic Now. I’m Andrea Tunjic and I’m a Cairns based leadership coach and mentor. I’m known for teaching managers to become effective, confident leaders.
When an employee pushes back on taking responsibility it can be very frustrating and it can feel like you don’t have many options to fix it, after all it’s a willingness (attitude) problem that can’t be solved with a skill upgrade. Here are my 3 surefire leadership tips to outsmart this challenge.
Tip 1: Understand what is driving the avoidant behaviour
I hear a lot of “what’s wrong with people these days – taking responsibility was something to be proud of and staff wanted… in my day”. There is some truth in this way of thinking but the problem runs a little deeper than individual choice.
We now work in a time of a lot of employment insecurity compared with a generation ago. And when people feel insecure they tend to become less willing to take risks and that includes the risk that comes with taking more responsibility and ownership at work.
We can’t change our external circumstances, but we can create an internal workplace environment that makes staff feel safe enough to step up and take the perceived risk of being accountable.
Effective leaders do this by creating a high trust workplace culture. One where staff feel that it’s safe to make mistakes, that has strong, enforced boundaries and that you, as the leader, has their back.
Tip 2: Teach staff how to be successful for you
The old school way of managing employees was to hire someone and expect them to fit in without much consideration for our unique expectations. Now we understand the value of being hyper clear on what our staff need to be and do to succeed for us.
I mentor leaders in 2 construction companies that do similar work, but how they run their businesses, what they want to achieve, what matters to them, is completely different. What drives the bosses crazy is completely different too – one hates people being late while the other is obsessed with excellence in the job.
Unless we tell staff what matters to us and what we judge success on, we miss the opportunity to fully leverage staff performance and we spend too much time managing our unmet expectations instead of leading our organisations.
Tip 3: As above, so below
I coach a CEO in a large tourism business. When we first started working together he would say “I’m over my staff saying “the problem with that is” after I ask them to do anything. I just want them to get on and do what I ask”.
After a month of working together I was able to demonstrate to him how frequently he too pushed back on ideas and suggestions, citing all the reasons why something could not work.
This leader is a solid businessman, who is also a highly cautious decision maker. His staff were reflecting back to him the caution that he values so much and that he was putting out to them.
Being aware of the messages you give to staff through your words and actions and choosing the behaviours that you want to see reflected back will get you leading more accountable teams.
If you want to learn more about moving from managing staff to leading them, you’ll find loads of great resources at www.andreatunjic.com
Feel free to send in your challenging leadership questions for the next Ask Andrea column.