Delegation is important, but there are advantages for a leader to get personally involved.
Make Yourself Available—Be Helpful
If people are to follow you, they must have access. No, don’t hover, but do let them in. With this said it is also important to respect a chain of command and to realize that time is a non-renewable asset. So there will be occasions when you must restrict access.
Following the chain of command need not preclude a leader from speaking with a person down the organizational chart. In fact, leaders who allow—even encourage—easy access often learn much that is going on within their organization. As a leader you can listen with empathy, but must always involve the person’s immediate superior at some point in the process.
When you do open yourself to your staff it is important to follow through on commitments—real or perceived—that are made as a result of this contact. A few years ago I witnessed a situation where an executive was hired from the outside to take over as CEO of an existing entity. He decided to meet with every employee. He wanted to learn about his new organization from the ground up.
Every employee was interviewed and asked many questions. The executive made notes of their answers. It was a relaxed interview perceived well by the employees. One of the questions he asked of everyone was what they would like to see changed to help them perform their job and help the firm.
There was an upbeat reaction from the employees immediately following these discussions. But, the executive never initiated the recommendations of a single employee and never provided them with any feedback.
It wasn’t long before the euphoria of having a new commander who cared enough to ask for their opinion turned into a catcall of comments about the ineffectiveness of their new leader. If you ask for the advice of an employee or other follower you must always thank them; tell them how you plan to act on their recommendations and, if you choose not to use their ideas, explain your reasons.
Coming up…recognition for those who help the leader.