Leading by Fergi – Lesson #7

Empowering Others

FergiI got frustrated with my agility trainer last night when she reminded me, for the millionth time, that I should not be giving Fergi treats from my hand; I should be rewarding her by throwing her ball, which has a big chunk of salmon inside (and thereby rewarding her away from me). Treating her away from me builds Fergi’s confidence and reinforces her to drive ahead. If she keeps looking to me for the answers, or coming in to me when we are running a course, it causes her to miss obstacles or potentially go in the wrong direction.

Of course, my trainer is absolutely right, and my frustration was not with her but with myself. I know in my head what I need to do, and yet I keep doing what I’m not supposed to be doing, and it’s impacting our performance as a team. I’m not helping Fergi feel good about working outside of her comfort zone, and in so doing, I’m sabotaging her confidence. I’m not leading.

One of my clients was recently in a similar predicament. He has several direct reports who often come to him with questions to which, most of the time, they already know the answers. He continues to enable them by providing the answers they seek. His intentions are good – as were mine! – but the constant interruptions and being a question-answering-machine created a serious drain on his time and ability to accomplish what he needs to get done each day.

So he did an experiment. For two full weeks, he didn’t answer any questions from his direct reports. Not one. He forced them to find the answers themselves. After two weeks, he noticed a big difference in the number of interruptions in his day. And the best part is that his people are more confident and more empowered to make decisions and choices for themselves. That’s leadership!

I commit today that all Fergi’s rewards will come from her treat ball and not my hand. Period. I’m doing this not because my teacher says so (and she’s right!), but because I want Fergi to feel confident and empowered to make the decisions that will help us both be the best we can be on the agility course.  Let’s all think about what we can do to empower our people and build their confidence. Let’s be strong leaders!


(This blog is dedicated to an amazing agility trainer. Thanks, Tina.)

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