There’s a fine line between giving too much support and creating a culture of entitlement.
A toddler needs support, but eventually she needs to be allowed to walk on her own. She has to put her left foot in front of the right and if it doesn’t keep up, she needs to learn to roll as she falls.
If her mother protects and supports her too much, soon enough that mother will end up with a lackluster teenager that soon becomes an entitled adult.
That is not what you want in your company. People need support – but they also need to be challenged.
Support is about providing tools and information, plus coaching and training to allow people to succeed. It does not mean you give them everything or do everything for them. That is not leadership.
Where to Start with Empowering
Where do you start to make a shift toward creating an environment of liberation and empowerment?
Well, you start at the very beginning!
When an employee arrives in your world, it is important to start with high support before you get to high challenge.
Support builds trust and without that trust you will never get people to be comfortable enough to be the best version of themselves. Move quickly into challenging your people to be better in order to avoid a culture of apathy or, just as bad, one where your top people leave because they’re bored and lack a feeling of accomplishment.
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If you’ve ever had a scenario where your best employee leaves you – and you didn’t really get a clear answer on why – chances are it was because they didn’t get challenged enough working for you.
Aim to have your culture one of high achievement and performance through empowerment and providing opportunities for your people to grow.
As a leader, you must become a liberator. That means you support your employees but simultaneously challenge them so that you set can set them free to be their best versions on their best days.
Do this if you want “Twin A” to show up most days.
The Danger of Being a Dominator
When you’re dominating, you are offering low support but the highest amount of challenge.
You expect people to be doing things instead of being grateful or appreciative of what is being done.
You’re asking your marketing assistant to start work on Monday and demanding that there’s an influx of new leads by 5 p.m. that same day – or else they’re fired. You’re asking a front desk person to book every new patient who calls – without giving them time to learn the scripts.
Your view is that you’re paying people, so they should produce. If they don’t, they’re a bad hire and they will be gone very quickly. Dominators put their people under stress by requiring a lot of work to be done and expect things to be achieved with little if any support.
Dominating leads to compliance, whereas liberating leads to engagement and progress.
Compliance may be an outcome, but because of the lack of support, employees perpetually fear disappointment, disapproval and rejection when expectations are not met.
I’d say this is worst of all of the quadrants a leader could be in. Yet, it is very easy for a business owner to land here, particularly if the business owner is from a successful family or is a serial entrepreneur.
The fear of financial (or opportunity) loss creates a low sense of psychological safety in the business owner.
The idea is that the more control or force you exert over the employees – even it is only psychological – the more likely they are to perform for you.
Yet, in reality, it works the complete opposite.
The more control and force you exert, the more pressure they feel, and the worse they are likely to perform. And because they don’t perform, you try to exert more dominance.
On and on this cycle continues and still there’s no progress. The only thing that changes is the leader’s blood pressure – it gets higher and higher. Results are short lived. Equally as short lived as most employees’ tenures.
What should be pointed out is that you can move between the quadrants, often without even realizing it.
For example, if you’re having a bad time at home or you’re experiencing some kind of personal or financial challenge, then you could unconsciously move into the dominator quadrant.
It’s also easy for someone like you – who is successful – to forget that failure is a natural part of learning and growing. As a result, your leadership style shifts to being more about commanding and supervising instead of communicating and providing feedback on ways to improve.
The acute personal or financial duress you might be under makes you forego your usually long-term view of your business in favor of a short-term approach that demands results faster than is possible.
If you need the cash, you think compliance is the fastest way to achieve it. And if you’re feeling a little crappy or suffering from low self-esteem, you think that getting stuff done will give you the relief that you’re looking for.
It’s usually instant gratification that is often short lived, but it works for a few hours to make you feel better.
What is more, if you’re feeling crappy, a way to instantly make yourself better (albeit temporarily) is to enforce some of the so called “power” that you hold over people as their boss. Shouting at or demanding of people makes you feel strong and good about yourself as you do it. The problem? It only lasts about a minute and then you usually feel worse.
Tune in next week for more actionable leadership tips.
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