Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Better Bosses Want Their Employees to Fail

It may sound counter-intuitive, but better bosses actually want their employees to fail. Ok, maybe I’d better define “failure” before we go too much farther here.

By failure, I mean stretching their boundaries. Offering ideas. Trying new and innovative ways to ultimately achieve success. Figuring out ways to help your company and your customers to do more. To do what it is that you do better. And to do what they do for less money or with fewer resources devoted to their completion.

By this definition of failure, most of those new ideas and suggested tactics will fail. But even if their ideas sometimes fail, you want employees to keep producing them.

To achieve this state of business Nirvana – where employees feel free and empowered to consistently offer out-of-the-box thinking and ideas that just might ultimately drive greater success – you need to have engaged employees. That’s where being a better boss comes in. Better bosses work to foster a culture of employee engagement (note: not simply employee “satisfaction,” or even “accountability.” No, I’m talking about genuine engagement).

Engaged employees are the cream of the crop. They are fully involved in – and enthusiastic about – their work. They work with passion, partly because they feel a profound connection to their company. This connection allows them to act in ways that advance their organization's interests. In short, they drive innovation and move the company forward.

There are many ways to promote employee engagement. In fact, a whole sub-species of business books has been written on the subject. But a good place to start is at the top. Remind yourself that an organization tends to mimic the example set by its leaders. Ultimately, it is YOUR CHOICE to lead your people to help you to become the kind of business that YOU want to be!

So be a better boss. Empower and engage your employees. And encourage them to productively “fail forward.”

On that point, I believe Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”