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The Secret to Getting People to Step Up

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

This might just be one of the biggest complaints I hear from leaders - why won’t people just step up? I need people to be more proactive; to take ownership and responsibility. To be accountable. I’ve had numerous clients ask me to help them create a culture where their employees act like owners. While there are scads of reports and studies on the lack of employee engagement to back up these complaints, the secret is right in front of you, glaring at you, almost embarrassingly obvious.

One of the most overlooked techniques by almost all leaders when it comes to getting people to step up and take ownership is reflecting on what they themselves are doing to create this situation. We’ve all lived it, the boss leaves for the week and everything goes smoothly. She comes back, and all hell breaks loose. OK I’m a boss too, so I’m not saying we’re not needed, and it’s better off if we’re not around - but I do admit it’s almost always my fault when people aren’t stepping up.

Leading is about empowering people, but what can happen instead is that we are so used to making things happen ourselves, we can’t get out of the way. From setting clear expectations to checking in, to debriefing about the project, we either don’t give enough information (we think our employees are mind readers), or we take over. The moment something isn’t going perfectly, we “do it ourselves.” Rather than provide encouragement and support along the way, we wait until we’re so frustrated and then we explode, or worse, we ignore the coaching opportunity, and we do it ourselves.

The secret to getting people to step up is you stepping out of the way. Not disappearing, or hiding, but supporting and empowering, by:

  1. Being clear with expectations

  2. Being approachable, and available for questions

  3. Reaching out and supporting (rather than wait to find a mistake)

  4. Helping people shift when they get off track

  5. Encouraging and praising (focus on the positives)

Remember your role as a leader - It is to empower, develop and grow people, and the side benefit is that your people will get spectacular results for you!

Some of you might be thinking, well, if I get people to step up and act like owners, what’s to stop them from expecting to be paid like one? Join on us this week’s podcast to learn how.

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