A Lindbergh Lesson: Let Employees Know the Joys of Responsibility

After his celebrated 1927 flight, Charles Lindbergh reflected on his journey. He spoke of the calmness with which he departed New York, and the freedom he felt in being alone over the North Atlantic:

I haven’t had to keep a crew member acquainted with my plans. When I learned the night before that the weather was improving, I had no one to consult; I needed only to order the Spirit of St. Louis readied for daybreak. When I was sitting in my cockpit, on the muddy runway, in the tail wind, there was no one to warp my judgment with a ‘Hell, let’s go for it!’ or, ‘It looks pretty bad to me.” I’ve not been enmeshed in petty quarreling and heavy organizational problems. Now, I can go on or turn back according to the unhampered dictates of my mind and senses. According to a saying of my father’s, I’m a full boy — independent — alone.

Lindbergh’s sentiments describe the joys of responsibility. He felt free to do his best, knowing that he alone was responsible for the outcome of his mission.

Employees crave a sense of control

I’m self-employed, and I know this joy. Many do not. Many workers don’t know what it’s like to be the sole arbiter of a task, and this is bad for modern American business.

HR pros know that money is an inefficient carrot, and that the stick can’t be counted on, either. Employees crave a sense of control over the work they produce. Most managers give credit where it’s due or slaps on the back for encouragement and, while both work to make the staff feel appreciated, they don’t give employees a sense of control.

We can go further than back patting. We can train our workers to be responsible for their work — that they alone have responsibility for the final product — and let them take off.

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Make your own Charles Lindberghs

Not all employees will succeed (due maybe to incompetence, or lack of desire) and for these souls there is no help; they will need supervision or to be shown the door. The rest, however, will thrive. They will be proud of their work and proud of the company they work for.

Sure, sometimes they’ll fail, but they’ll fail because they have too much spirit, not too little. The employees who control their own destiny will be your Charles Lindberghs — pioneers and achievers for whom the sky is the limit.

The best thing we can do is find the right employees, give them real training in self-reliance, and set them free to accomplish whatever task we give them.

David Sneed is the owner of Colorado-based Alpine Fence Company and author of Everyone Has A Boss – A Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company. As a Marine, father, husband, entrepreneur, author, and teacher, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the personal benefits of a strong work ethic to entry-level employees. Contact him at David@EveryoneHasABoss.com.

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