Monday, May 2, 2011

Empowering Team Members

By Al Norval

Many organizations talk about Empowering people.

In truth they may ask for people’s opinion or input on ideas but that speaks more to involving people not to truly empowering them. To empower people means we will allow and encourage them to solve problems for themselves. This means Leaders don’t undermine Team Members or second guess the countermeasures the team has come up with. Rather it says Leaders must coach and mentor their teams developing the teams capability along the way.

Sounds simple. But what happens when the problems the team face exceeds their capabilities?   Team Members become anxious and learning stops. The easy and expedient answer is to give the problem to someone else. While this may lead to quick resolution of the problem, it does little to build the capability of the organization for the long term.

What happens when the opposite occurs – when the problems the team faces are less than their capabilities?  Team Members become bored and give up. Again no learning occurs within the organization.

The key is to give teams problems that are a good match for their capabilities. When this occurs Team Members excel. The key for Leaders is to give teams and team members problems which stretch their capabilities without exceeding them. Adults respond to this challenge and work becomes interesting and learning occurs. Over time the capability of Team Members and in fact the organization as a whole goes up.
With more capability, more problems can be addressed leading to a cycle of continuous improvement.

This entire process requires finesse on the part of Leadership – giving people problems that are not too hard and not too simple.  Finesse enabled by Mental Model #2 – Go to Gemba to see and understand for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Having a team member progress their capabilities during problem solving takes special effort on the part of leadership. First, lines of communication must be clear so that the team member does not feel they are on their own. Next, team members must feel free to act on their problem. They need to be able to experiment against their facts and intuition. Understand that things do not always go according to plan. Be prepared to use Leader as Teacher mental models in the event of a miss step or initial failure. How you react to failure will directly affect true empowerment.