Thursday, June 02, 2011

Day 3 of the 30 Day Challenge to Write

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion;
it is easy in solitude to live after our own;
but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd
keeps with perfect sweetness
the independence of solitude.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Today's challenge:

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What's one strong belief you possess that isn't shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?


One of my strongest beliefs as a leader is that I cannot hold tightly to things that others should be allowed to do. Empowerment is one those words leadership books and professionals are constantly encouraging leaders to practice. And it is a practice because it doesn't come easily. Many of us don't just fall into leadership, rather we earn the right to be a leader.

Many, many years ago, at the young age of 16, my first real job was as a grocery bagger. Later I became a produce clerk, frozen food clerk, grocery clerk, grocery manager, assistant store manager and finally store manager. The road was long, none of these accomplishments happened over night. But along the way I learned a lot about the industry and how to drive sales and make a profit.

I have heard more war stories from my bosses. These men and women worked hard to build their companies, and these stories are important to remember and share. They worked singlehandedly when there was no one else in their employment. They worked the produce, grocery and checked out groceries all by themselves. They opened the doors at 8AM and closed the store at 10PM. There were no lunches, they grabbed a snack and ate it as they worked.

The problem for many is the road to success (done so many years ago) is the thing they hold tightly to. These individuals think they are the only ones that know how to accomplish the task. Everyone else will do it wrong, or be incomplete, or they will take too long. I know how to accomplish every task in the store, I can do it all. But is that the task I was hired to do?

Empowerment requires letting go, allowing others to complete a task with little interaction from the boss.

Empowerment requires coaching and cheerleading. I feel that spending 5 or 10 minutes with my empowered leaders gives me their best performances. Daily I listen to their accomplishments, struggles and goals. I offer my thoughts without just giving a solution (who knows, they might have a better solution). I help the leaders identify problems and offer my assistance if necessary. But I really enjoy praising my team for excelling in reaching sales goals (which they are doing regularly!).

Empowerment is not creating individuals that look and work like me. Empowerment allows others to discover that they are unique and they are capable of doing great things.

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