Hallmark 2: Empower Teams

October 31, 2019

Frustrating bottlenecks. Sluggish decision making. Lackluster results. Waste, waste, and more waste. 

We’ve all seen and likely experienced all these things. They are a common byproduct of traditional hierarchical, micromanaged teams. This type of dynamic can be incredibly frustrating, not to mention how much they stifle learning and creativity. As surprising as it may be, most organizations still work this way, and it’s one of the main reasons those organizations are struggling to keep up. 

Advancements in technology are accelerating the pace of change so rapidly that organizations have no choice but to change. Organizations must rethink the way work gets done and reorganize themselves into small, agile teams. This type of structure enables rapid learning and decision making, not to mention astonishing results. These changes are the only way work can get done effectively.

We Solve Problems by Empowering Teams

An empowered team is self-directed, guided by transparent leadership, and an obsession with the customer. The team is always learning because change is constant.

At SingleStone, we promote empowered teams- teams that are self-directed, interdisciplinary, and obsessed with delivering value to our customers. Our teams are guided by open, transparent leaders, and the bias for action is strong. Empowering teams may seem like an organizational “switch” that can be flipped, but that’s not the case. Truly empowering teams is a mindset shift that often requires transforming your culture, and not just the way your teams work together. 

So, how do you start your journey to empowered teams? Here are a few tips that helped us on our journey:

Set a clear and inspiring vision. 

Setting a clear and inspiring vision is easy to say and much harder to do. First, senior leadership must inspire the team towards a common goal, one that gives the team a sense of meaning and purpose.

At SingleStone, our vision is “to empower businesses to think and work like a modern tech company.” This vision drives everything we do- the way we deliver, our culture, our values, and the clients we pursue. While structure, team norms, and the way work gets done may differ, for teams to succeed autonomously, they need to be crystal clear on the organizations’ vision. A clear vision enables every team to align their actions, behaviors, and day-to-day decision making to support the achievement of that vision. 

Be so transparent that it makes you a little uncomfortable. 

The key to transparency is communication and trust- one cannot exist without the other. Being open and transparent with your team requires a vulnerability that hasn’t always been welcome in the workplace, but it’s essential to building trust. As leaders, be open and vulnerable with your teams. Provide access to all kinds of information and then talk about why that information is important. Host town halls and invite your teams to ask questions, challenge decisions, and offer suggestions. Share organizational failures and lessons learned. Speak openly about what is and isn’t working. Don’t just share information either. Give your teams access to information so they can use it for making decisions. When people have access to data and feel well-informed, they will start to feel empowered and begin operating that way as a team. 

Insist that failure is a critical way to learn. 

Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable things for leaders to do in order to empower their teams is to insist that failure is a critical way to learn. While we may have outgrown Henry Ford’s assembly line, he was right when he said:

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” 

Henry Ford

Encourage your teams to make small decisions on their own. Escalate decision making only when the stakes are incredibly high and the consequences could be devastating. Set guardrails and expect mistakes, then trust your teams to incorporate learnings and do better the next time. And remember, empowering teams doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time for teams to become truly empowered. So, ease into it. Allow teams to make small decisions and then move on to larger ones. Encourage exploration, experimentation, and risk-taking. Then provide a forum for teams to discuss failures and determine new ways of thinking and working. 

Incorporate diverse perspectives, skill sets, and experiences.

At SingleStone, we’ve been on a journey to empower our teams for several years now. One of the things we got right, early on, was to create teams with a diverse skill set. We recognized that each person brings a unique perspective and expertise to the team, and they think about solutions and possibilities from different angles. Diverse perspectives often lead to healthy debates, the challenging of ideas, experimentation, and creative problem-solving. 

How would you empower the teams at your organization? What do empowered teams mean for DevOps and continuous delivery? How would empowering teams benefit your organization? 

Let us know your thoughts.   

Tricia Rhodes

Chief Employee Experience Officer
As our Chief Employee Experience Officer, Tricia is the champion of our corporate culture. She has been key to creating a company where people are encouraged to contribute, rewarded for trying new things, and supported when taking risks.