7 steps to creating and leading an empowered team

Hello Monday Club hosted a workshop at the Landing festival 2019 in Lisbon, sharing 7 steps to creating and leading an empowered team.

Landingfestival is a tech career event, that aims to help tech talents to grow, develop and shape their career, organized by Landingjobs.com, a disruptive tech recruitment agency based in Lisbon. We were very happy about being invited to the career stage and hosting a premium workshop.

In this blog post, we look back at the workshop, sharing these including 7 steps and the main insights from the workshop.

Why Empowered teams?

For tech companies, it is crucial to create the kind of organization that leads them to success, and being able to build, lead or be part of an empowered team is essential.

Tech teams, in the future even more than now, need to be very autonomously organized because highly empowered teams are critical to the success of your startup or tech company.

However, since many of us grew up with an industrial way of looking to organizations (notice how often we still use the word “boss”) this means we are facing a fundamental paradigm shift – and in this exciting age we are in the middle of that.

This difference in paradigms can create conflict and put your companies’ success at risk. A participant from the workshop works in a highly innovative environment that got acquired by a more traditional organization, and they are reinforcing structures that are decreasing the innovative powers of his company.

Download the Summary of my Master Thesis about the most effective leadership style of remote knowledge workers, here, to learn more about all this!

Empowered teams are critical for your success

Empowered teams are supporting your company goals because they lead to:

  • Innovative and Adaptive organizations
  • Attracting and maintaining talents
  • Personal and professional development of teams
  • Creating learning organizations

Empowering your team leads to a rethinking of how we organize ourselves. We need new skills set for employees and managers, change in attitude and reviewing your people processes, and, new organizational structures.

Example of Self-governance in organizations

Empowering employees is not new, but there are more and more concepts being developed and being implemented.

Often they are driven more by necessity rather than a vision:

  • Agile movement (driven by the increasing complexity of IT projects)
  • Remote teams (enabled by tech, driven by costs, talent scarcity and changing attitudes)
  • Startup cultures (driven by the need for innovation, lack of resources and need for agility)
  • Types of self-governance in tech companies are Sociocracy, Holacracy, Squads structure, Scrum Methodology

Empowered organizations

What see in many organizations is that tech teams have high levels of autonomy, especially while working with one of the above concepts, but the organizational context doesn’t have self-governance in place. We often see a more traditional, hierarchical paradigm in place for:

  • Mindset/attitude of (higher) management
  • Bureaucratic processes
  • Overall culture
  • Management roles

But for an organization to really move forward and change fundamentally, higher levels of self-governance are needed.

Quote: we can’t stop at empowered tech teams – we need to build empowered organizations

To truly empower your organization, we recommend developing the organization within the following 7 areas.

(note: there is no order – it is holistic so we need to look at all of these steps at in a holistic view)

we can’t stop at empowering tech teams – we need to build empowered organizations

1.    Organizational Structure

With an empowered organization, there is no traditional hierarchical structure, but a structure that enables self-governance – and that shouldn’t stop at the tech department.

Our advice is to change towards overall self-governance structures that cover all layers of the organization

2.    Strategy and Decisionmaking

Self-managing doesn’t mean that there is no coordination. In order to be able to reach the companies’ goals, a lot of coordination is required.

  • Top management is mainly responsible for strategy and vision – but with a significant amount of input coming from the teams.
  • Alignment takes place within the teams but also alignment with the other teams and functions.
  • Decision-making processes in your company are based on consent (not on consensus).
  • Work towards true ownership and high engagement for the overall organization

3.    Conflict and Crisis management

Before moving to more self-management in place, you should think about, and then commit to what you do when there is a conflict or a crisis. In a truly empowered organization, the teams are solving these, using decision-making and conflict resolution techniques. This does require the right skills and attitude, and sufficient training for the teams to be able to do so. This specific point is often a bottleneck in the transition to self-managing teams.

4.    Management roles

What does a self-managing organization mean for the role of the manager? The manager’s responsibility isn’t disappearing, but is divided into different areas and can be part of different people.

We can, for example, identify the following “hats” that different people in the organization can take on – on different moments as well.

  • Advisors, Specialists, or SME’s
  • Role as a squad lead or representative within the self-governance structure
  • Coach for the individual employees for performance, development, work-life balance, culture, soft skills etcetera
  • Team coach, helping teams to set goals or resolve conflicts (it is advised that this is always a neutral person who is not responsible for the other roles because that could lead to a conflict of interest)

5.    Communication styles

Creating more self-governance in organizations requires optimizing communication styles to enable that. Make sure the communication is aimed at:

  • High Transparency
  • Aimed at engaging and stimulating ownership
  • Stimulates Inclusivity
  • Intention to solve problems (stop the email ping-pong)
  • No unnecessary meetings
  • Friendly and respectful
  • Optimizing collaboration

6.    Egoless company

Ego is reinforcing separation and personal agenda. Instead ask questions, such as:

  • How can I best serve the team?
  • Did we serve the organization in our best way?
  • Create a sign for when the ego shows up – in a safe and respectful way
  • Be intentional about collaboration
  • Assume everybody comes with good intentions

7.    Let everybody show up “whole”

A diverse company is better equipped to resolve conflicts and solve problems. Accepting and embracing that everybody is different, and encourage them to be their full selves, will help you to create more diversity

  • Let people show up with their full personality
  • Create a safe and inclusive environment
  • Ask to share their point of view and give input
  • Create a culture where diversity, in all its forms, is valued

On a final note

Empowering your team, and ultimately your organization is a process that will take years. It can also feel overwhelming, risky and you might feel you are not ready.

As a first step, I would suggest that being aware that more empowered teams are essential and taking even the smallest step towards it, is already a great start. Feel free to contact us if you want to have a chat about your best, next step.