Superpowers Every Worker Needs, Right Now
We can’t go back. Even if COVID-19 miraculously stopped in its tracks today, there is no return to business as usual. Some changes will be challenging, but many will be positive. In fact, workers have more potential to impact their companies and the world around them than ever before. Contractors, freelancers, and employees across all levels of the organization can bring forth innovative ideas, stellar execution, and transformational results.
The opportunity for companies is simple: give people the power to rise to the occasion, and great things can happen. Here are three very human capabilities that, with the right focus, can be amplified to empower workers to rise to the challenges of uncertain times.
Strength to Destroy Barriers
Customers come to many of a company’s front-line workers with questions every day. Colleagues, direct reports, partners, and a myriad assortment of people do the same. In turn, that employee needs to know where to look for the answers. Now is the time to give the people closest to their customers and colleagues the ability to answer those questions. Remove the barriers to communication that stand between them and the answers they need. Consider inboxes that gather dust, or the unclear organizational structures and internal systems that leave people wondering who to call for help. Remove those obstacles, and an organization has more strength than ever to boost vital relationships with those dealing with urgent concerns.
Action: Establish internal teams and channels dedicated to taking in ideas and questions from the field. Replace the proverbial virtual suggestion box with active two-way interaction. Empower people to read, understand, and adjust their actions. The barriers could be habits, policies, or decades-old paths of communication. Reexamine each of them. Consider their worth today. Reinforce them or smash them accordingly.
Speed to Fix Problems
The chance to improve or advance comes in all forms. It can be a business opportunity. It can also be a chance to do something better, innovate, or navigate the current challenge of the day. The fix could be as simple as correcting a broken approval process or creating an information source.
Action: Clarify accountability. The manager-worker relationship provides the clearest path to a more responsive and agile organization. Managers may want to begin with a simple conversation with each member on their teams, and address the big questions: “What am I supposed to be doing, what should I look out for, when can I act on my own, and where do I need to turn for immediate support?” The right answer today may be entirely different than what is right tomorrow. With the right framework of accountability, and freedom to move, workers on the front line can solve many issues before they grow into larger problems.
Vision to Act Decisively
With fast-moving events, workers need to be able to make decisions more independently, so clarity of the company’s vision is essential. Can every worker see through conflicting issues and demands to recognize the priorities, ignore distractions, and avoid low-value detours in their work? If not, that lack of understanding can sap performance.
Action: Provide context and reinforce the company vision. First, ensure that managers consistently update their teams with a big-picture view of the issues and projects in progress. Second, make sure every worker is familiar with the organization’s goals and vision. Sweeping messages from the president are not enough; that vision has to come through at all levels. Every person in the organization makes critical decisions every day, and a solid grasp of that vision is key to enabling consistent and decisive actions from all workers.
Looking Beyond Crisis
The “superpowers” companies can provide employees are not new, but a time of abrupt change offers a chance for leaders and managers to become more intentional about common-sense principles for empowering their workers. Eliminating barriers, speeding up responsiveness, and supporting decisive actions are just a few ways companies can equip every worker to rise to the occasion. They are the basis for a strong culture that attracts and retains great talent at any time. And, when it comes to bringing out the best in people, there is no better time than the present to put these principles into play.
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