Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions
On Friday 20th Nov, 150 entrepreneurs, software developers & designers gathered in London at the behest of the Department of Transport in a 48hr “Hack Train Weekend!” The express intention of this coming together was to generate ideas for making Britain’s trains more efficient. Facing significant budgetary cuts, the need to achieve a “game changing” way of delivering a better service with reduced funding remains essential – ring any bells?
This is an example of a “hackathon” – a phenomenon that has grown up in recent years whereby individuals from differing sectors come together to solve a problem or create a new opportunity. Apart from the fact that this is “sideways thinking” at its best, it’s also a radical example of empowerment. The participants are encouraged to approach the situation from any angle or methodology. Industry or sector assumptions are disregarded and the contributors are “empowered” by the organisers/businesses to birth new ideas & solutions.
Now let’s be clear, empowering teams is NOT about having no parameters or limits but it IS about making those parameters clear and then giving them the tools and the authority to undertake the task or job at hand. Empowering people we lead should be about freeing them from unnecessary “red tape” & supervision and us managing them by remit & results…….
Now for many managers this can be challenging as the definition of their own success is the traditional model of hierarchical management where “knowledge is power.” Anything close to “letting go” is seen as a challenge to their authority and undermining their own value and safety within the organisation .
Yet time and again we see the most successful leaders (and interestingly those seen most in control) are those who have truly empowered their teams to achieve rather than just obey!
So what are the hallmarks of empowering teams?
- Led not ruled – At the heart (not the head) of an empowered team is a leader or manager who clearly & honestly communicates on direction, implements processes that enable rather than hinder and coaches rather than criticises to improve performance. They delegate and don’t “dump” tasks and most importantly…..they stay the hell out of the way and trust the skill & will of the team to achieve what has been agreed!
- Autonomy – The other side of that coin is that truly empowered teams have and respect They know their limits of authority AND don’t abuse the trust placed in them. In fact many empowered teams impose stricter “rules” upon themselves than would be seen if they were inflicted upon them. They are clear on how decisions are made and communicated, and who is responsible for implementing them. They also keep the leader & manager informed on progress and any support needed WITHOUT being chased.
- Impact – Without doubt, empowered teams have a far more significant impact in terms of results. Why? Simply because they see the project as theirs rather than someone elses and thus the engagement levels are always increased and along with it discretionary effort. Toyota empowers some of its employees to identify and help remedy problems that occur in product assembly. A car coming off Toyota’s assembly line with a paint defect is seen as an opportunity to delve into the root cause of the defect and not just something to be fixed. Solutions that have employee involvement tend to have more buy-in when it comes to implementation!
Additionally, truly empowered teams create empowerment for themselves by seeing and seizing situations, opportunities and coming forward with ideas to deliver even greater success. They don’t wait to be delegated to….they ask to be delegated to – or they just do it!
Here at Aspirin Business, we help our clients create empowered teams by co-creating clear goals, measures of success, developing skills, building trust and improving communication. Empowered teams are essential to growth, freeing leaders to focus on strategy, sales and key relationships. Worth a conversation?