“Teams should continue to perform without the leader”. This may seem excessive, but organizations need proactive teams instead of those acting under the only-one-leader schema. I would even say that we will not be able to build an efficient organization if teams always refer to the management to act.
At first, it may seem the right way (or the easy one) to be the guy who has the right vision and give all the directions to the team. It works. But in this model, what about team engagement, what about autonomy, what about responsibility, and what about resilience? Is the team able to continue to deliver good result without the leader?
Getting empowered teams may bring a lot of benefits once we created the right ground for them to fully take their role:
- Many qualified leaders close to the operations who know the actions to take in their domain
- A higher sense of Teamwork
- Improved employee morale and commitment to the mission
- An increase in productivity and quality of the work done
- A sense of responsibility
- A way to achieve excellence by having many leaders
With such teams, we can feel a sense of uselessness or imposture once the organization in place and people fully responsible. But for sure it’s not. You continuously need to feed this empowerment, define the objectives and expectations, and of course, control of the work done is still an important part of your day to day. You are always accountable for your teams’ delivery.
Several behaviors can help to develop empowered teams:
- Authority Delegation: Giving authority on well defined actions to your teammates helps them feeling involved in the organization. This can be done only with the three following actions.
- #1 Spread your vision and the objectives to reach.
- #2 Define the actions on which they have authority, that allows them to feel comfortable taking this authority.
- #3 And train them to explain their decisions and anticipate your questions, that helps them understand what is expected.
- Trust: Getting trust, in both ways (trusted manager and trusted teammate) is a key factor to get an empowered team. As a trusted manager, your sayings are well received and the teams listen to you. Without trust, you have to make much more communications without having the same impact.
- Recognition and respect: Acting with respect for your teammates and valuing them for the work they do promotes team cohesion and engagement.
- Risk taking: If your team members are afraid to take risks, you will have an environment where only well-controlled actions will be done. In this way, you give up innovation and excellence as nobody will try new things. You can’t perform without encouraging risk-taking.
- Open innovation: Allowing your team members to propose new ideas, new organization flows, and taking them in consideration, increase the feeling of belonging.
- Continuous improvement: Allowing team members to acquire new competencies, and the global organization to improve day after day, is a powerful lever to empowerment and focus on excellence.
- Include teammates in important discussions allows them to assert their responsibility for the actions they have to take.
It’s not easy for a team to go from a passive behavior to an active behavior. If the teammates are not used to, they won’t take actions by themselves. Taking decision means being responsible. It’s a kind of engagement. You have to start by little steps. Change the ways you communicate with teams is an important factor. Ask them what they would do for this or this kind of issue, and why. What could be the effects of their actions. What do they think you are thinking about that. And do not forget to include controls in your process, it’s your responsibility.
With delegation, comes the difficult trade-off between autonomy and delivery. How having an impact on the team backlog without impacting the autonomy you gave. I do not have well defined answer for this trade-off. However I would add the notion of accountability in top of autonomy. When teams are fully aware of the goals, take the ownership, and act in a productive way to ensure that they achieve results as expected. Again, you have to well define the rules and checkpoints that keep people moving towards the common goals. This is, again, your control responsibility.