In my experience, empowering a team is absolutely the fastest way to scale and succeed. In my last role, I was in Melbourne for nine months and I had eighty direct reports. Eighty developers reporting directly to me! How can you engage that many people and where do you start? One of the things that I did collaboratively with the team is put together a leadership group of 10 people. With that leadership group, we came up with a collaborative strategy around what we wanted to achieve over the next 12 months. Each of the people within that team was empowered to own and drive different initiatives across the state and bring in other people from the broader teams. Over those nine months, we hit our 15% growth target and we had 95% retention. Empowering team members makes your life a lot easier as a leader!
It is what people want and it’s the easiest way to really build a great team. Before I was in Melbourne, I was based in Perth. We grew our team from 25 to 50 in 6 months and we retained a 98% average employee satisfaction score. This was primarily due to empowering our people. Work collaboratively. Set goals with your team and with individuals. I’m a big fan of letting people (assuming they understand what the vision is and what the purpose is) come up with their own KPIs. Letting people come up with their own goals means they are going to pick things that they believe in and want to achieve. Empower them to figure out how they will achieve them. It’s our job as a leader to provide any specific boundaries, reporting requirements or deadlines that they need to hit. It is also our job to make sure that we provide them the support that they need and make it safe to fail. Other than that, let them be truly empowered.
The other thing that we need to do as a leader is making sure that within our team, we’ve got the right mix of skills and roles to achieve the goals. That can be tricky, so, one of the things that really works is making sure that you’re balancing the strength areas within your team. If you let people do what they’re good at, then mostly they will love what they’re doing. If you can put a team together and every single person is getting to do what they’re good at and what they love, it’s happy days, for you as a leader and for the success of your company
Think about what hats are needed within the team. Do you need a scrum master, do you need a team leader or someone who’s going to do stakeholder management? Do you need a technical, go-to person? A mentor? Do you need a cheerleader in the team? Do you need someone with commercial awareness or delivery management? Do you need someone who’s risk management-focused? Think about all those different hats. They’re not necessarily role titles, but they’re hats that need to be worn within different teams. Make sure that you consider those hats when you’re putting together a team and when recruiting new people into the team. Dan Pink has a section around autonomy in his book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” which talks about all of this in a lot more detail. Mark Manson has another great book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” that talks about how our brains love solving problems.
That’s what most people want to do. We just want to solve problems. Empowering your team to solve problems now helps you as a leader anticipate problems later.
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