Empowering Others

“You will get what you want in life when you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

Throughout my entire life I have found myself as a leader rather then a follower.

Growing up in a divorced family and being the eldest of 6 brothers, I often found myself breaking new grounds and making the path a little easier for the rest. When I was 15 years old my mother didn’t speak to me for 6 weeks because I had my ear pierced without her permission (not to mention the tongue, eyebrow and ear stretchers), I started binge drinking as a teenager, was tattooed and ventured overseas all to my mothers dismay (and adding to her gray hairs). With my friends I adapted to change quickly and took risks and in the world place I lead by example and was proactive rather then reactive. I was the guy who had the solution to the problem before the problem arose. This year I learned the negative side effects to this…

In 2010 I found myself in another position of power.

Australia’s premier sporting code is the National Rugby League and amongst the sixteen teams that compete is the Canterbury Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are the team that I have supported since Day #0 of my existence and have spend many dollars supporting them. Their fanatical supports group is known as the Bulldogs Army and has been strong staple of the football clubs culture since the 80’s. During a 2009 event celebrating the year that was I was elected a ‘Leader’ for 2010.

The four leaders started the year off well with multiple face to face meetings and frequent emails, however; for whatever the reason was the communication broke down.

Two of the four leaders became less involved in the decision making and things were being actioned above them. I was one of the two leaders who was making all the decisions. In the world I am from a leader is born through initiative and does not wait to be asked to do something. When we were looking to acquire new members I did not wait for people to approach me to ask how to join, I was proactive in encouraging, welcoming and being inclusive to people from afar who may be intimidated to approach a tight knit group. In my spare time I wrote up a weekly newsletter, I conversed with the football club about opportunities and took as much responsibility on my shoulders because I knew my members lead busy lives. What I later found out is that resentment grows because deep down everyone wants to be important and feel empowered.

As I jumped off my train and headed for the exit of Burwood train station I noticed an elderly lady struggling to clear the electronic turn styles. She put her ticket into the slot but it was denied her exit. She turned it around and again was denied. She moved to the next turn style and again she was denied. As the peak hour passengers passed her by without any offers for assistance you could see she was confused and a little frustrated. When I final hit the bottom of the stairs I was able to guide her out of the turn style in a heart beat. What she could not see was that some of the machine are entry only but was I going to tell her she was wrong and she should have paid more attention to the red x which suggested she couldn’t leave through this turn style? No. The lady was positive it had worked in the past and she then said to me “I’m just getting old, I’m starting to forget things…” to which I interrupted and returned “No, no… these machines always play up. Maybe it changed while you tried to use it”.

Did it actually change? No, it was clear as day. Would she feel any better if I made her feel like an idiot by pointing our her errors? No.

As I reflect on my sales management career what made me different from other mangers was the ability to empower my staff with responsibilities which their job description did not detail. I entrusted my staff to set the upcoming weekly roster, I appointed one of them to ensure that there were no errors in the paperwork and made them responsible to change over the store display  when new promotion or material were delivered. I did not do it be lazy but to create ownership in the work place and to develop their skills so if and when I leave there would be no drop in the stores revenue. A good manager can leave tomorrow and you would never notice their gone unless you actually visited the store.

2010 was a fantastic year for the Bulldogs Army result wise because we achieved more then we expected but we did not invest into our people and empower them with ownership and responsibility. When I think about generating all the little wins that we as a group need to grow I also realise I forgot to encourage others along the way. Just because a select few would offer assistance did not mean there were not others wanting to help… they might not have known how and possibly lacked the confidence to try something outside of their comfort zone.

When I left my last role as N.S.W. Field Sales Training Manager I selected a raw sales person to take over. He had no official experience in training, English was his second language and he did not know as much advanced sales training material that I would have liked. He was a risk of failure but he had a burning desire to achieve and 9 months on he is developed greater then I would have ever imagined. I will speak more about Sadik Karim on another day.

I will return to this topic soon and discuss further ways to empower others around you. What techniques are YOU using to empower people in your life?

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