Unleashing Your Team's Talents And Energies

It’s too bad those talkers who speak “straight from the shoulder” can’t speak from a little higher up.

For years and years, managerial thinking was focused on the question of control. Hundreds of books were written on how the manager could get the employee to do what he wanted him to do.

That approach worked fairly well in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. But the 90’s ushered in huge global economic changes, changes that demanded we rethink our approach to management. Slower, bureaucratic, heavily layered, and control-oriented organizations could no longer compete.

Today we need organizations that are much more creative and flexible, motivated and proactive. And that starts with the individuals in the organization. We need to move away from the business of controlling our employees and move toward the process of releasing their talents and energies. We need to develop and utilize every possible resource the employee brings to the organization — if we’re going to compete and succeed in the 21st century.

Of course, you may be wondering how that can be done. I’m glad you asked. I think there are six roles you can play — if you’re a manager — or if you’re just trying to bring out the best in others. And these roles — if you play them well — will make your employees — and ultimately your company — more successful.

=> The First Role Is Informing.

Francis Bacon said, “Information is power.” Indeed it is. Well informed employees make better business decisions. And well informed employees adapt more quickly to change. As Professor Shibutani of Japan so well said, “You’d better keep your employees informed, or they’ll make it up, and it won’t be flattering.”

=> The Second Role Is Motivating.

Managers must lead in a way that excites the individual as well as the work team. And that requires the use of emotional as well as financial incentives.

Good managers and good leaders instill a vision of a brighter future, and that vision liberates potential. As one said, “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.”

Likewise, the effective manager or leader distributes the rewards fairly. He knows that motivation quickly collapses when people feel that others are being compensated differently for similar work. The same is true when the rules are bent or “special exceptions” are frequently made for a few individuals.

=> The Third Role Is Developing.

The empowering manager builds the competence and self-esteem of his coworkers. She makes sure each and every one of them feels valued.

Even though people may want to be on an effective team, no one wants to be “just” a part of the team. People also want to be recognized as individuals. The excellent manager knows this and acts accordingly. She takes time to know each person, to ask questions, to listen carefully, and to recognize improvement and accomplishment. And when the individual worker feels valued, his performance almost always improves.

=> The Fourth Role Is Providing.

All employees, even your best employees, are limited by available resources. The empowering manager makes sure that his employees have the resources necessary for success.

Of course, it isn’t always possible to have all the resources. But it is clear that a company that invests in limousines for its executives — instead of the best tools for its employees — has not chosen to empower its workers.

Beyond the tangible resources, empowering managers also provide and create the right working environment. In short, they make sure the group has fun together.

Unfortunately, in many groups and organizations, the fun is gone. In fact, many managers are guilty of growling, “Okay, we’ve had enough fun around here. It’s time to get back to work.” Somehow in their minds, excellence, productivity, profitability, and fun are incompatible. The research says just the opposite. People work harder when the work is fun.

=> The Fifth Role Is Evaluating.

The empowering manager looks for and praises excellence, comments on good deeds, and offers appreciation to those who are working hard for the team as a whole.

Unfortunately, in some organizations, the prevailing philosophy seems to be that of getting as much from the employees as possible while giving them as little as possible in return. In these places, the workers find a host of ways to frustrate management or steal company supplies and time.

Highly motivated groups experience a very different reality. They experience the caring of their leader. John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, communicated such caring. Wooden frequently told his players that outside of his own family members, his players were the most important people in the world to him.

=> The Sixth Role Is Facilitating.

When it comes to decision-making, the empowering manager ensures that decisions are made as close as possible to the point where they will be carried out. And she makes sure she keeps her promises.

The words and action of a good leader communicate that she will do exactly what she says she will do, when she says she will do it. If for any reason she changes her mind, or if circumstances change, she tells her people well in advance, so they will not be unduly harmed. A good leader goes to considerable lengths to show her people that she means what she says.

Empowerment seems as though it’s here to stay. After all, you want to engage all the employees’ resources, not just some of them. As Thomas and Velthouse say in their book, today’s successful organizations have “a common theme which emphasizes the power of confident people, passionately committed to meaningful goals, acting in accordance with their own higher values, taking risks and demonstrating initiative and creativity in the service of these goals.”

Action:  Of the six roles played by empowering managers, which one are you best at? Which one do you need to get better at? And if you want to take a real risk, ask your employees and coworkers to rate you as well.

Based on the data you collect, select the one area that needs the most improvement. Spend five minutes a day doing something to strengthen that one area. Five minutes a day, for twenty one days, will turn into significant change that impacts those around you.