Joe was a talented guy on international assignment leading a factory start-up. He had years of experience and worked as hard as anyone I know. Betty was the actual leader responsible for the project overall. The project was behind schedule and the pressure was on. On a number of occasions, Betty became very frustrated with the implementation team and fired off finger pointing emails. On one occasion, Joe was the target of a particularly pointed email and many senior leaders were copied. As you might imagine, Joe was upset and about to flame out on email. The most senior leader on copy, forwarded the email back Joe and said four words, “Don’t take the bait.”
When Joe looks back on that sequence, he told me that those were the four most empowering words ever said to him. He knew from the statement that senior leadership knew he was doing the right things. He shared with me that this confirmation from management gave him license to make timely decisions, take risks and achieve objectives. This story made me think about the small comments leaders make on an hourly basis that either empower our people or create dissatisfaction. It is unlikely this senior leader even knows he had such an impact.
What little things do you say to empower your people on intense assignments?