Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Leadership: What would happen if I empowered everyone in my team?

Have you ever heard a manager or leader speaking about their teams and say something like: 

"Yeah, I hire the best employees I can, empower them and then just get out of their way to let them get on with it"

If you haven't, this is a hugely powerful message to rally toward, not to mention strive for in your own leadership journey. It also makes for smart business.

There are teams that function on being told what to do, a micro-managed "can't think for myself" environment where the preference is toward just doing as they are told. In these teams, performance and professional growth are all tied directly to the person leading them.

Imagine if that were you leading a team like that. A hard ask, right? That's a lot of pressure on your shoulders. 

What if there was another way?

How would you feel if you had a team of people who were trusted and knew it, were empowered, had the ability to do their job and do it with real a sense of ownership? Let me tell you, its one of the best feelings a manager can have in his or her role. 

But so many leaders worry that if they were to do something like this, that manager / leader would do themselves out of a job! 

Let me reassure you. You won't lose your job. You will just perform it differently, at a new next level.

Not only is this "get the right people then get out of their way to let them do it" ideal bigger than just you and your role, this should be the distinction you aim for, for three very simple reasons.

1. You will increase your team's development / job satisfaction
2. You will increase your own development / job satisfaction
3. You will increase your own businesses development and profit

To back this up, my manager recently found an article on LinkedIn and shared it with me, knowing this is the direction I aim for in my role as a Team Leader. I've been exceptionally lucky to have taken over a team of people who all fit firmly into the level one category already, but there are a few things I look for beyond my teams borders and do attempt to follow this diagram below. 

As you can see, Eric Chester here has had some great ideas and this is an excellent way of displaying them.

But what does each section actually mean for you and your team?

Again, from the LinkedIn post, here are the breakdowns. 
I have added in my extra bits in italics so as not to offend the original writer.

1. Hire Talented People of High Character: Trust is the foundation of autonomy. So, while you want talented people on your team, if you’re forced to choose between someone who has the skills and someone you’re certain you can trust, ALWAYS choose the latter. Go to great lengths in the hiring process to make certain you’re bringing on people who have unquestionable ethics and character.

Skills can be taught, a great attitude, is a lot more difficult to teach / gain buy in for change. 

1a. Hire people who will be a great team fit: This is something I have worked ever since I first saw what could be accomplished by following this idea. Firstly, a leaders goal is to "protect the team". You want to add something to the group of people you look after, that will enhance how your team operates. Look at your team and try to see what might be missing. Is it someone who loves numbers? Someone who beams positivity? Do you need a tried and tested? Or a real go-getter to inspire the others? Or do you have too many socialites keen on talking all the time? Do you add in a couple of quieter members of the team? Always consider what you need to help the existing team members. Consider what new people will bring.

2. Clarify Goals and Objectives: Cultures that promote autonomy need employees to work toward targeted, concrete objectives—priorities and deadlines set by their manager. Think of it like establishing the rules of the game before the players take the field. The employees have the opportunity to use their strategic skills and creativity to score more points, but they must know what victory looks like.

KA's, Measurements of Success, whatever you want to call them, these hold the keys toward providing autonomy for your team members. If they understand the goal, know what is expected of them, they will take the bull by the horns and go for it. The WIIFM (whats in it for me) will assist you empowering them because they will prefer ownership of their success much more than you owning it. 
NOTE: your KA's or Measurements of success must allow for the creativity of doing "more". Agree first on what those might be. An example would be "your yearly score was "X" but you went above and beyond by doing "Y" so will now increase your "X" score to a higher "Z" score.

3. Train Process and Procedure: The confidence to correctly make difficult decisions stems from the training an employee receives. That’s why great companies are relentless in their training processes. The Container Store ensures that all new hires receive hundreds of hours of training before they ever set foot on the sales floor. At Marriott Hotels, every employee is cross-trained to do just about any job in the hotel just in case they need to fill in for someone at a moment’s notice. At Wegmans, the deli worker can tell you the reason that a particular type of prosciutto costs $ 90 per pound is that it came from an Iberian pig that was hand-fed acorns from an organic forest in Brazil. Great companies know that training doesn’t just make a difference; it IS the difference.

In just about all cases, your teams training needs will fall into these four categories. 
1 - Up-skilling 2. Cross-skilling 3. Re-skilling or 4. Inductions. 

All of them can have anyone in your team involved. They can help with any category, even to the point of delivering the training. NOTE to consider: Growth can be both limited and enhanced with this design of utilising your own people. Limitations follow a path of "I was taught this way so I will teach this way" and "We've always done it this way, so will continue to do so" and can impact resourcing levels. The enhancements come from allowing your people to spread their wings by doing the teaching. You must retain sign off for all training in the early days to ensure you allow them to question the norm. In larger organisations of 150 plus, enhancements are driven by someone who has "trainer" as their full time occupation. Trainers push like coaches and therefore help "become" the difference mentioned above. 

Regardless of how your business is set up, an employee life-cycle (fig 1) needs to be considered at all times and set against a robust training methodology (fig 2), just to keep your eye on the prize. 
As per the beginning of this 3. train process and procedure, ensure consistency is a goal and a single source of truth is found/created so that each person understands and can easily find answers should their systems (or memories) fail. 

Fig 1                                                    Fig 2

4. Empower Your People: The key to ‘letting go’ is to begin empowering people to make small decisions and work their way up. Use those occasions when your employees approach you for help as opportunities to empower them to make the decision. 

Ask questions like "what do you think we should do?" to encourage them to begin coming to you with confirmation questions rather than straight up questions. This will traverse them from just asking you with no thought, to thinking about the answer before they ask it. 

Empowering can be done simply by providing opportunities for them to show you what they can do. Provide mini-projects, let them teach someone, bring them along to a "higher up" meeting, expose them to other parts of the business. Most of all though, listen to what they want or help them find what they want by asking the right questions. 

The idea is to trust them make a decision and encourage them regardless of how it plays out. However, be sure to hold them accountable for the outcomes as it will motivate them to carefully think things through and take responsibility for the results. That’s essential for building leadership skills.

In the end following these 4 steps, the results will always speak for themselves. 

If the employee demonstrates the ability to make good decisions, they should be granted more trust and more independent decision-making latitude. But if things go awry, take it as a sign that they need more support from you. And scolding them for a bad result or micromanaging them to the ‘nth degree is not what is implied by the term support. It simply means that they may need a more clearly defined goal, more training, or even more confidence. 
And that will come from your trusting them again.

And thats the end of the LinkedIn article. You might notice I still haven't answered the title question of "What would happen if I empowered everyone in my team?"

So, here we go. What does tend to happen?

By following these guidelines, your team will perform at higher levels than ever before, they will (incredibly) feel all the better for it because they have more say, they will have more ownership, more confidence, be more involved, understand more about the business, attain better pay increases and have more interest in how your business performs and want to come to work more often. 

You will have the proud fact that you managed to create a high performing / positive / agile team delivering better results than ever before, have more time to spend working strategically to help them (and your business) be even better, have more time to plan opportunities to continue the growth, you will be managing a happier team who will be better to manage, not to mention it being highly likely that you will be recognised and rewarded for all of this great stuff too.

The business you work for will become more agile as a result in both the marketplace and inside its walls, make more money without compromising any ideals or their culture because everyone is working toward the same goals, will stand head and shoulders above their competitors and be a more positive, sparked environment to work in.

And all that, just from "hiring the best employees to add value amongst your already brilliant existing team, empowering them all and then just getting out of their way to let them get on with it"

Not a bad outcome for just thinking about this leadership stuff slightly differently, don't you think?  

Any questions or comments? Please write them in the comments field below this post.

And will see you next time.


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