Silcox (2012) has outlined four levels of authority which exist within all organisations. Depending on your current experience and career history you may be able to relate to some or all of these levels:
1. Act from instruction: At this level the individual implements decisions made by others. There is no choice and staff have to do as they are told.
2. Act after approval: The person weighs factors and acts only after their manager has approved their chosen action.
3. Decide, inform and act: Power to decide is added, but people remain accountable to someone else. There is a need for this person to inform their manager of their actions.
4. Decide and act: Provides complete authority and accountability. No approval is required.
This is a fairly simple model but it is actually one of the only models available that categories authority in this way. Silcox proposes that all levels of authority should be balanced and managed effectively in order to be successful. While I complete agree with this summary I feel this model should also be viewed in a more developmental way. The model can be a useful marker for leaders who are looking to develop their staff as the benefits associated with each level increases respectively.
If you want a highly motivated and innovative workforce you need to create value for your staff and facilitate their progression up the four levels of authority.
A member of staff who operates at level 1 (act from instruction) will have no scope for innovative, creativity and problem solving. They simply do as they are told – pick it up, put it down, start, stop, go home, see you tomorrow. This member of staff is highly likely to lack motivation as a result of this type of work. Whereas, a member of staff who operates at level 4 (decide and act) will have an almost unlimited scope to be innovative and creative. They will be enthuses, inspired and motivated to come up with ideas, solve problems, think outside the box and act on them without approval. They can literally do what they want, when they want, how they want.
The general idea here is that staff will typically begin at level 1 and as their experience and knowledge increases in alignment with your trust in the employee they will gradually move up the scale – level by level. However, the issue is that many organisations do not do enough to develop their employees. The focus is all too often about creating value for customers in order to make as much profit as possible, with little consideration for staff needs. But this is an extremely narrow-minded, illogical and immoral way to treat employees.
The more effectively and quicker an organisation can progress its staff up the levels of authority the more innovative, creative and motivated their staff will become. Creating value for your staff by investing time, effort and money in their development, an organisation can greatly benefit from the potential return in investment that their increased productivity, efficiency and motivation will create. This does not necessarily need to be an expensive process. Much can be learned from shadowing others, mentoring, coaching, researching, observing, reading as well as many other low cost development activities.
You need to develop your staff and create value for them. Valued staff are happy staff. They will be motivated and will work in innovative and productive ways to achieve their objectives. They will want your business to succeed and they will want to go the extra mile to meet the needs of your customers. Ultimately they will care about your business and celebrate its successes as they will have had some authority over the decisions that have been made in the process.
I often speak and write about creating value for all stakeholders and I would place employees at the very heart of this leadership style. If you want a highly motivated and innovative workforce you need to create value for your staff and facilitate their progression up the four levels of authority. This will give them empower them and give them ownership over the work they perform. How do you create value for your employees? Please share your experiences by posting a comment.