How Does Your (Business) Garden Grow?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On August 18, 2014

HowDoesYourGardenGrowMost of us in business aren’t content with the status quo. We don’t merely want to be “in business,” we want our businesses to reach new levels, to be more productive, to be more profitable—in short, to grow.

That’s why we invest in new technologies. It’s why we pay attention to our infrastructure. It’s why we watch what the competition is doing and track the trends in our respective industries.

But if we’re smart, we pay particular attention to one key factor: our people. Some of us even work our commitment to our people into our mission statements and vision statements. Some companies go so far as to make their commitment to people part of their public persona. Grocery chain King Soopers has a tagline that proclaims, “Our People Make the Difference.”

We say that we believe in our people. But do we really? A few years ago (2011 to be exact), the folks at Gallup released their findings that “Seventy-one percent of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and are less likely to be productive.”

That “disengagement” is costly. Gallup estimates that worker apathy results in $450 billion to $550 billion a year in lost productivity. Hardly the stuff growth is made of.

The Harvard Business Journal concurs, saying that, “Research has shown that helping others feel more powerful can boost productivity, improve performance, and leave employees feeling more satisfied on the job.”

Here’s where it gets hard, though. We may know this is true, but how do we get to the point where we actually allow people to have power, get engaged, and help our companies to grow? Many people in positions of leadership equate leading with being out in front (a good thing) and telling people exactly what to do (not always the best way to get people engaged).

Make no mistake: As the leader, you’re still responsible for the outcome of things. But when it comes to the actual work that gets done, who really knows more about the “nuts and bolts” of your business? Is it the person at the top of the organizational flow chart, or the person on the front line? What can you do to allow employees who know what they’re doing (and how to do it) to make their own decisions?

We’re not talking about strategy here. That’s still your job. We’re talking about execution. Are your people free to make decisions—within their area of expertise—or are you “leading them to death” by inserting yourself in situations where they already know what to do?

If you want to grow your business, you have to let your people grow as well. It may not always be comfortable for you (especially if you’re a “hands-on” leader), but if you want your company to be bigger than you, you’re going to have to let others be engaged at an appropriate level.