A Team Lead, Software Manager, Project Lead or INSERT TITLE here, cannot do it all.
You might think they can.
You might want to believe they can.
They might try for a while and actually do it.
But eventually they will realize the truth that they cannot do it all.
And so will you.
The problem with this realization is that it often comes too late and at the most inopportune times. Which of course results in the team being unprepared for when we say “you are empowered, go deliver”. They don’t know what to do and in turn we view their inaction as a failure.
But it’s not the team’s fault.
From the moment you take on that leadership role in your team, the first directive that should be implemented is to let the team know they are empowered to make decisions related to their work, the product or project to further the team’s collective goal of leadership growth.
When one individual on your team is undertaking everything, only one person is growing — the current lead. And when the lead is the only one that is growing, no one else is.
This doesn’t mean that you as the leader should let everyone run wild on all sorts of tangents. There is some guidance that is required to successfully empower your team that can help you implement this successfully.
Set the Limits
Yes, everyone needs limits. Start small — don’t have people doing something as encumbering as peer performance reviews when have not had some small successes to back up this new mindset. This will also help your team in knowing what you expect from them, where and when. On a side note, sometimes a team can feel overwhelmed when they hear that they are “empowered” to do “something” so it works better to give them an idea to focus in on, get really good at that thing before jumping into something bigger. In addition, you can also use this tactic to signal to your team where you really need their help and where an impact can be made.
Empowering your team requires open lines of communication. If you want to avoid the whole “check with me for every idea you have” or “we made this change and told no one” empowerment philosophies it stands to reason that you need something to ensure the lines are always open. There are a ton of tools that can help you here, SLACK, IM Conversation, Teams, Groups, etc, etc.
A simple email to the team on a idea can be all it takes.
Better yet, let the team figure out the best method to implement this notification and let them run with it. Whether it’s counter to how you would do it doesn’t matter but what does matter is the team is starting to buy into and become part of the new philosophy which is key to their acceptance and usage of it.
Formal vs Informal
The whole raison d’etre for Empowerment is to make change happen now, quickly, today. Whether it’s implementing a new testing script or kicking off a project to be completed in a few months, the initial kick to make that empowerment happen should involve as little formality as possible.
It should be easy to get the idea out there, it should be easily discussed, digested and regurgitated for all to understand.
Team meetings, email, calls, one page diagrams are great ways to embolden the entire team to try something new. Five page business cases, week long meetings are a great way to turn your team off completely and leave you sitting by yourself thinking — “I’ve empowered my team, but they never suggest anything?”.
Until now, we’ve been focused on laying the groundwork, the foundation, for setting your team up to feel empowered, but now comes the hard part.
Letting them Run
You’ve been around the block, to the rodeo, bought a lemon a few times, tried it before and it didn’t work, etc, etc. And even though this is true, as the Leader, you must ensure that your guidance is tempered. Providing feedback is good, great, encouraged, but now it’s time to let them run with it. Perhaps not how you would do it, perhaps not the way it should be done, but let them run with it. Not for a month or year, but let them give it a try, see how it goes, what works and what doesn’t. Than step in to help.
This is the most critical piece of empowering your team because this is the point when you show them it’s real, you are willing to place your trust in their ideas, willing to listen to the pros and cons and let them run with it.
If you don’t/can’t let them run with it, stop now and figure out it will take for you to get to that point. It is critical for you to figure out what it will take for you to commit to implementing this strategy BEFORE you open it up to the team. Otherwise when the time comes to let them run with it, your team will realize it was all for naught and their trust was misplaced.
And when you do let them run with it?
Go back to the top where one person cannot do it all, but an empowered team definitely can.