Happy coworkers being praised by boss

Empower your employees

After another wild weekend on the frontline, I’m never at a loss for new material to discuss here; however, I fear that much of it, given my proclivity for profanity, is simply unpublishable in a public format. Moreover, I feel that there would be so much explaining to do in order to set up whatever story or scenario in a way that’s easily understandable for the casual reader (because everything is just so beyond belief), which would result in a verbose diatribe that would simply bore people to death (especially given our shrinking attention spans). So, I’ll do my best to avoid the very thing that my buddy Mark once described: “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” 

… anyway!

Empowering the people

Isn’t it amazing that employees are only ever exactly as smart or independently capable as you let them?! How extraordinary.

Office Man struggling while being watched

I should probably explain that.

What I mean is, if employees aren’t empowered to think for themselves and supported in their (reasonable) decision-making, and are instead, limited (out of fear/discipline) to acting within a restrictive framework of (arbitrary) rules, policies and procedures, they will act in the most limited/demure manner possible. Ironically, this then feeds the positive feedback loop or creates further algorithms to ‘tell’ people how to act (when they clearly can’t be trusted to think for themselves or judge the nuances of circumstances).

At work, if you haven’t empowered those who report to you to the point where you’re just a little wary or uneasy, you haven’t empowered them enough. On the flip side, far better (if only from a cost-benefit standpoint) to extract the fullest potential from every employee within their scope. Better to default to trusting employees than not. They’ll feel that – and appreciate it – and reward you for it.

The Speed of Trust

The speed of trust is a phenomenon that plays out in real ways when you just trust people to do the right thing when faced with challenges and problems to solve. And not just because it’s the season of miracles, either. They will surprise you with how efficient and effective they can be – and in the surprisingly infrequent instances they aren’t, only simple prompting or momentary coaching is required to nudge them towards higher-performing outcomes. And such instances provide the very opportunities which crystalize stronger working relationships, further nurturing a trusting relationship.

Boss is happy

When your direct reports know you have their back – when right or wrong – without fear of reprisal, they will reward you. These are the very employees that employers need to do everything to retain.

Thanks for the ‘Leadership 101’ talk… how about some examples?

Oh, right! You’re right. Time to get off the high horse from the ivory tower. 

Example 1: Staffing. Classic. 

“So-and-so didn’t show up. Did they call in?”


“OK, do you mind if we text them to see what’s going on?”

“No, by all means. Just let me know what’s going on when you find out.”

… 15 minutes later, it turns out that they slept in and were on their way. 

Perfect! Problem solved. Simple. 

But that very scenario plays out all the time and less independent teams just punt the ball to others to solve… which takes far longer and, crucially, takes away from other pressing demands. For a more fulsome perspective, a single sick call can take hours to fill; anytime it can be solved by a single message in a few moments, is a blessing. 

Example 2: A bed’s broken

Easy, there. Stop laughing. Naughty. Not that type of broken bed. I’m talking about electric beds that raise and lower, in different sections, in the clinical setting. 

Again, one of these unexpected and seemingly simple-on-the-face-of-it types of logistical problems arises more often than one might have considered. Remember, some LTC facilities can have close to 200 beds; one is bound to stop working properly at some point. Soon. 

I was fortunate enough to have a high-performing team on this unit as well. In the end, they simply informed me casually (and waited until I was on the unit instead of calling me, no less) that they’d taken it upon themselves to swap out the broken bed for one in a newly vacant room. Housekeeping had already cleaned both and maintenance had been informed to assess the broken equipment.

Perfect! But again, they knew I’d support them in making these decisions (even if I would have rathered they not use the bed they did… but that was easily solved) – and lesser groups would simply have elected to boot the entire set of issues to someone else (i.e. me) to solve – and fix – by myself. 

Saving time in the clinical setting means having more of it to focus on what you’re really there to do:  help the residents. That said, leaders know that your primary role is to look after and support those who report to you. Empowering them actually makes the leader’s job much easier in the long run and results in better decisions more often than not.

I’m sorry this turned out to be a longer letter than short one.


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