Empowering Your Team

This post presents some ideas, tips, techniques and processes on how to empower your talent. But first, let’s define “empowerment.” To me “empowerment” means that your Teamers are really getting into what they are doing and wanting to do more and better work. They can make decisions on their own and help directly influence quality control and customer satisfaction. You need to do everything possible to help them to work in the “zone” or in the “flow” which is the state of mind that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned expert on creativity, describes in his book Creativity as a “feeling of engagement and focus that time seems to pass unnoticed.” If you have participated in any sports most likely you have experienced being in the “zone.” It was the best game, match, set or round of your life! Everything went perfectly and you can have this same experience at work if you empower your team.

You need to consider and initiate these ideas, tips, techniques and processes to help you empower your Teamers:

The One-on-One Meeting - You need to have meetings with all of your Teamers on a regular basis to encourage understanding and bonding between the two of you. This is the next step or phase in developing trust between you and each of your Teamers.

The first thing that you need to do is understand and know each of your Teamers. What are their goals, values, skills, wants, needs and potential contributions to the success of your team and the Organization?

Start having regular meetings with all of your Teamers. The frequency is up to your working relationship with each Teamer. Once a week is best to start out with, but some folks will only need to get with you every other week or even once a month. But make sure that these meetings are habitual for example “every Tuesday at 10:00 o’clock.”

You should have only two goals for the One-on-One meeting:Help your Teamer feel better about you, themselves and the Organization.

  • Help your Teamer feel better about you, themselves and the Organization.
  • Help you understand them and their needs, wants, dreams and concerns so that you can help them work in the "flow" as much as possible.

Some suggested agenda items for One-on-One meetings include at least these topics:

  • Accomplishments during the past time period
  • Goals for the next time period
  • Problems or concerns
  • Training opportunities
  • Other general "stuff"

Your goal must also be for your Teamers to walk away with a positive feeling about your meeting, including the following:

  • They are in a comfort zone and can freely express themselves. There is trust and honesty present in each meeting.
  • You work on what needs to be done - direction!
  • Make needed decisions.
  • Have them feel that you really care about them, their work and their overall success.
  • Address any problems or concerns they have.

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

- Abraham Lincoln

Team Building - You need to have regular and constructive team meetings to encourage team understanding and bonding between each member of your team. This is another “trust building” program to encourage your Teamers to trust one another.

Have regular team building sessions where you encourage your team to:

  • Look at work as a team as it flows from on Teamer to another. How could they work together better and transfer work between them better?
  • Look for ways to improve handoffs to other teams or groups.
  • Look for process changes and improvements that need to be made.
  • Look for policy changes that need to be made. 

“The people that get on in this world are the people that get up and look for the circumstances that they want; and if they can’t find them, they make them.”

- George Bernard Shaw

Let Them Fail - This is a tough one. Most managers won’t let their Teamers fail since it may be a reflection on their performance.

If your Teamers fail, help them to learn the lessons they need to improve and not make the same mistakes on the next project or task. A cause analysis and team problem-solving session can help identify the problem(s) made by your Teamer(s) and the reason(s) why.

“Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.”

- Roger von Oech

Tell Them What You Want To Achieve, But Not How - You need to have your Teamers do at least the planning, scope definition, resource allocation and quality control on the projects assigned to them.

Meet with your Teamer and give them the assignment, but don’t do it for them! Be as specific as you can on what you want them to do. Then ask them to prepare their ideas and plans on how to do the project and get back to you. Have your Teamers present their ideas and plans and listen and make suggestions and modifications to their ideas and then go!

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

- Walt Disney

Trust Them - Most of the folks that I’ve worked with over the years wanted to do good work and feel good about their contribution to the success of the Organization, so work to trust them.

Trust is a critical ingredient in being a good Middle. Trust is a two-way relationship; you must trust your Teamers in order for them to trust in you.

Once you give your Teamer the assignment, let them make mistakes. You must trust them to do the project. That’s part of the motivation for the project!

Work with them often so that they don’t go too far from what you want them to accomplish and give them immediate feedback on their performance.

Mutual trust may be the most critical ingredient in empowering you and your Teamers.

“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”

-  Carl Jung

It’s The Work That Motivates Them - In my opinion one of the major myths of management is that a person can motivate another team member. The only two things that motivate people are the work itself and the “environment” or working conditions that they work with each day.

But what makes the work a motivator? Doing work in the “zone” or the “flow” as often as possible and you need to accept that you must be the focal point and the initiator to help your Teamers get to work in the “flow.” That’s true empowerment! There are key ingredients for projects that empower your Teamers to work in the “flow” including:

  • Clear goals
  • Immediate feedback on their progress and performance
  • Good balance between the challenges of the project and the skills of the Teamer

“If an egg is broken by outside force, Life ends. If broken by inside force, Life begins. Great things always begin from inside.”

- Jim Kwik