Make your employees the heroes at work and watch them soar
Who’s the hero in your work story?
When you think about the work performed by you and your team – the challenges and setbacks, the hard work, the breakthroughs, and the triumphs – who do you picture as the primary hero in that story?
It’s human nature, I think, to see ourselves as the hero at the center of our experience. Perhaps that’s how you tend to see things from time-to-time, or even much of the time.
Seeing ourselves as the hero of our story has clear benefits. It can be helpful to have a vision for ourselves and what we want our lives to look like, to set goals, and pay attention to how we are progressing towards them. It can be thrilling to notice challenges and obstacles along the path, and devise plans to overcome those and see them through. Viewing ourselves as the hero in our story can be exciting and a source of inspiration and energy.
Beware the dangers.
When we are leading other people, however, there can be real downsides to seeing ourselves as the hero of our work story. If you’ve ever worked for a leader who acted like the hero in your story, you know what I’m talking about.
- These are the leaders who put the spotlight on themselves and take it off the team.
- They tend to view other people as objects to be managed or controlled in their pursuit of success.
- Leader-heroes feel obliged to solve the problems and devise the great plans that will save the day. While this can be exhilarating for leaders and generate short term success, it can feel deflating for those around them. So long as the leader is wearing the cape, their team-members can’t be. Often the only way for these employees to break out and shine is by taking their talents elsewhere.
Benefits of making our employees the heroes
Seeing our employees as the heroes at work helps us access the inclusive and empowering leader who lives within each of us. It enables us to bring more coaching and less telling and builds up our employees’ confidence and competence. Seeing our people as the primary heroes at work – and championing their success – increases trust and grows a stronger, more capable, and autonomous team.
Leading a team of heroes also frees-up time in our calendars to finally tackle the things we want to be working on. What would you do if you had a little more free time each week?
Sounds great - how do we do it?
If that sounds appealing to you, there are two simple but effective self-coaching questions I’d like you to try next time your own inner hero starts to emerge. These questions have worked wonders for me and other leaders with whom I’ve worked.
The first question asks, “how do I want my employee(s) to feel in this situation?” Identifying how we want our people to feel generates an almost immediate clarity about how to move forward in a more empowering, people-centered way. Try it now and you’ll see. Think of one of your employees who is facing a challenge, feeling stuck, or with whom you are feeling a little bit of frustration. Rather than focusing on how you will fix this, ask yourself “how do I want this person to feel as s(he) works through this?”
The second question asks, “what can I do to help my employee(s) be the hero with this challenge, project, situation, etc.?” This question redirects our energy from solving the problem ourselves to helping our employee(s) experience success and achieve the outcomes you both want. This can be combined with the first question or asked on its own.
Two simple questions: “how do I want them to feel?” and “what can I do to help them be the hero?” Give these questions a try and see how they work for you. I predict they will help you access a more balanced, inspiring, and empowering way of leading. Engagement, performance, and results will improve. You will be on your way to being one of your employees’ best leaders ever, and if I dare say it, a true hero in their eyes. It’s a wonderful paradox, and an incredibly satisfying and effective way to lead.