Highly effective organizations are composed of highly effective teams. Leadership in these highly effective organizations are intentional in the development of those teams and utilize two key tools to aid in this development: Collaboration and Empowerment.
A collaborative environment is one in which members work together to solve problems and to create and implement new ideas. It is based on the notion that through the sharing of ideas and effort, other, better ideas and results can be attained. Additionally, it is based on the notion that common purpose (i.e., the achievement of better results) and shared respect for one another will lead to unselfish contribution and support of and from other team members.
In a collaborative environment, team leaders make sure that objectives are clearly stated and understood by all team members and that shared respect is always present. If disrespect occurs, these leaders are quick to address the issue, determine the cause and re-establish an environment of shared respect.
Team leaders are also quick to recognize the combined efforts of their team members and reinforce those efforts. Collaboration is really the opposite of competition because in collaborative efforts everyone is a “winner” and no one is a “loser”, whereas in competition their is always a winner and a loser. In competitive environments the tendency is for the loser to either become less motivated to participate, or more motivated to “get even”, neither of which leads to better results.
Collaborative teamwork is like basketball where “assists” are just as important as shooting because without the assists, the shots will be less likely to score points for the team.
Collaboration also increases “ownership” by team members because each one has input into the process and thus “owns” a piece of the effort and the result.
Within these collaborative environments, leaders empower their employees and teams by giving them the opportunity to take initiative and make decisions without “getting permission” first.
Empowerment is based primarily on “trust” that the empowered person will make a decision that is in the best interest of the team and one that will achieve the stated objective.
Empowerment is always relative to the ability and motivation of the individual being empowered. It is based on the understanding that the empowered person has the knowledge, skill, motivation, etc. to make the “right” decisions and execute effectively on those decisions.
Empowerment does not mean “lack of accountability”. Remember our discussion of this topic in our May Newsletter (Effective organizations hold everyone accountable for both positive and negative results). If failures do occur, empowering leaders do not automatically assume that the failure was a result of poor motivation, but rather assumes that the person gave his or her best effort and then explores for the “real” cause(s) for the failure.
If the failure was motivational, then the leader attempts to understand the factors underlying the lack of motivation before attempting to motivate the person. If the failure is not motivational, the leader then works with the person to develop a plan to prevent the failure from occurring again. Failure is seen as an “opportunity” to improve and reduce the chances of additional failure going forward. It is never seen as an opportunity to lay blame.
What's the point?
Empowered employees have a greater sense of satisfaction in their work, a greater sense of ownership and an increased willingness to work together. Ownership increases the likelihood that the employee will exert the effort necessary to achieve success.