If I were to simplify the world into two types of teams, I’d have to say there are extraordinary teams and then there’s everybody else. If you want to build an extraordinary team, empowerment is a requirement, not an option.
Think about the most talented people you know – really high velocity people. Are those the kind of people who can operate in an environment where they have no sense of ownership? If you give that some thought, I think you’ll come back with the answer that highly talented, high velocity people want and need a sense of ownership because that’s how they operate.
The most effective people are driven by a sense of passion. Emotion is part of what makes them so good at what they do. I’ve always characterized them as “hungry.” But what are they hungry for? Typically, they’re hungry to prove something; to make a difference; to make an impact. You can’t be hungry to do those things if you have no sense of ownership over what you’re doing.
Ownership provides a sense of receiving credit for something good. At the end of the day, some of the best of us want to see our name in lights – “This is something so and so did.” There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s not a matter of being egotistical it’s just that it’s very difficult to prove something you can’t put your name on. High performers don’t want to put their name on something they had no input in. It just wouldn’t mean anything to them.
So if you want to create extraordinary teams (and why wouldn’t you want to?) you have to give people ownership. Empower them. Empowering people results in a whole different level of performance.
Through empowerment you not only get the best work out of that individual, you attract the best people to the team.
Teams that are empowered become so proud of where they work they develop a reputation and buzz that attracts other great people. Google demonstrates that with their 20% time – you can do whatever you want to 20% of the time. Zappos, whose mission is to wow the customer, keeps it broad. They don’t say, “Here’s how you wow the customer.” They just say, “Here’s what we want to do. You go figure out the best way to wow the customer depending on the situation.” Now that’s empowerment!
Empowerment is your succession plan. If you want to build an organization that will live on after you’re gone, empowerment is the answer there as well. If your team members are not empowered, they won’t know how to function without you.
The subject of empowerment means a lot to me and I hope to write more on it in the near future. How do you feel about empowerment?