A Culture of Confidence
Ultimately, the best way to sustain accountability within your workplace is to create a culture that encourages it. Bring people on board and help them buy into the idea that being accountable is a good thing. It’s good to stand by your work and be proud of what you’ve done and the decisions you’ve made. Nurture a mindset shift in your office, prioritizing a celebration of success over recognition of failure.
It’s important that you build up a farm team of sorts of future leaders to fill the roles that the current leaders now hold. The best way to do that is through delegation and empowering your team members to accomplish more.
Delegation serves a couple of functions. For one, it lessens the burden you have as the leader. As we discussed earlier, the higher you climb, the more your work moves away from technical skills and toward people management. It’s important that you have the bandwidth to effectively lead everyone. That won’t happen if you get mired in too many menial tasks.
Delegation also serves a function in accountability. The best way to keep someone accountable is to give them a very clear, discrete task and then determine whether they completed it in a satisfactory manner. Increasing the level of autonomy is almost always preferable, and coupling that with delegation is a recipe for a solid workforce. People have the creative space to accomplish their projects in their own way, but you maintain metrics and accountability to ensure that everything is accomplished.
Empowering others is going to be key as you develop future leadership. People won’t be prepared to take on more responsibility in the workplace if they’ve never had to be responsible in the organization before. It’s a practical way to determine who’s the best fit for future roles, and elucidates far more than any interview or written response might yield.
Finally, in empowering others by delegation, you’ll need to make people a bit uncomfortable. The only way that folks can grow is by entering uncharted territory. Nobody ever learned something new doing the same thing day in and day out. Delegation allows you to test the limits of your team, while keeping everyone accountable for expectations. Growth can only come through more freedom and thus responsibility.
Empathy is our next trait. Psychologists define three major types of empathy:
Cognitive empathy is related to the idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; it’s referred to as perspective-taking.
Emotional empathy is a connection with someone who makes you feel close to them, as in an interpersonal relationship. You feel their pain, for example, because of how close you are.
Compassionate empathy is the most prevalent. It’s that basic emotion with which you can relate to the plight of someone else.
In general, for our purposes, empathy in a leader is understanding the way other people think. Not just in the sense that you can predict their next move, like a chess player, but that you get the way they see the world. That should inform how you interact with them. Understanding people is one of the most valuable traits a leader can possess.
Empathy is one of those terms that gets tossed around a lot, but we take little time to think about how it affects the way we operate. It’s essential for leaders, because we know that everyone is not the same. Every person has an onlyness that makes them who they are, and tapping into that is going to render the optimal results. It can’t be done in passing. You have to want to understand what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes. And it’s not about how you would feel in their shoes – it’s about how they feel in their own shoes. You need to see things through the other person’s perspective.
That’s also important in your decision-making. If you make the final decision on certain issues, there’s going to be someone, at some point, who feels that their opinion was discredited or went unconsidered. You must practice empathy in turning people down or pursuing different ideas than what they offer. Let people know that you value their input and that you want them to continue offering their thoughts. Not every idea is a winner, but every person is liable to have a winner at some point. Don’t discourage creativity.
Empathy is a skill you use frequently in your personal life. You have to be empathetic with your family, partner, children – anyone you value and want to keep close. Why would you not want to extend that to the workplace? Put yourself in a team member’s place and consider why and how they do what they do. It will improve the work environment for everyone involved.
Finally, having put all of these pieces together, we conclude with this: Believe in those around you. See the best in them. There’s a reason these people are on your team. You likely have a camaraderie within the workplace; build upon it.
So many of the issues we face are issues because of a mindset we’re stuck in. The daily grind keeps us in a rut, and we lose sight of the reasons we started working in the field we love in the first place. And we lose sight of those around us. Even on the worst days, practice a little empathy, and see the good in others. Some days, the work will be tough. But a good leader can buoy the team. Believing that we’re all inherently good people and are trying to do our best goes a long way, and it’s worth reminding yourself now and again.
As we touched on before, encourage people when they succeed. Your team should celebrate success whenever possible. People can go weeks in their job doing good work but never feeling acknowledged for it. Maintain a positive work atmosphere so that everyone feels valued. Just because you know that you value everyone, doesn’t mean they know it.
You’ve got the tools you need to make a successful workplace, and it starts at the top. Remember, the buck stops with you. Ultimately, you’re responsible for ensuring that those around you are confident that you’re trustworthy. But if you put in the work, that will never be an issue.