Sunday, July 27, 2008

Just Do It

Is your organization struggling with empowerment? Are people afraid to make decisions? Do they come to you for permission to do every little thing?

Nothing inhibits success like teammates who feel like they are not empowered. They don't generate any new ideas. They miss opportunities because they think no one will accept their proposals. They react instead of act. Morale is horrible, retention suffers, and performance is poor.

You can imagine what this sort of environment does to a military unit. They do not exploit opportunities because they feel like they need permission from higher leaders. They wait for orders before taking action and end up getting hurt -- or worse. They allow the enemy to take the initiative and become defensive instead of offensive. People get hurt. Battles are lost. Without empowerment, otherwise fully capable leaders and organizations become irrelevant and ineffective.

Former Chief of Engineers for the Army, Retired Lieutenant General Bob Flowers, had a solution to this mentality. And I love it for its simplicity. Mind you, he may not have come up with this idea on his own, but I think he took it to a level that transformed his entire 35,000 person team.

He issued a "Just Do It" card to every member of the team. Asked them to keep it in their pocket or on their access card. It simply reads as follows:

Just Do It Card

If you want to do something, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Is it good for the customer?
2. Is it legal and ethical?
3. Am I willing to be held accountable for it?

If the answer to these three questions is "Yes," don't ask for permission. You already have it. Just Do It!

And he signed it. Bob Flowers, Chief of Engineers. How is that for empowerment from the head of a multi-billion dollar agency?

What might this do for your team? Print out these cards, sign them, and give them to your team. Tell them to quit asking for permission and...Just Do It! That's Leader Business!

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