The final action of building an Unstoppable Team is letting go. It’s proving your trust and respect in your teammates by empowering them. One of the many differences between a group of individuals and a team is its ability to react. A group of individuals will seek out permission via a formal (or worse, informal) chain of command; the team, on the other hand, will respond with speed because each member is empowered to make decisions, and those decisions will be made in alignment with the team’s purpose.
Empowerment without communication with context (pillar one, Connect), direction (pillar two, Achieve) and team contribution (pillar 3, Respect), is more in alignment with abdicating responsibility than it is with delegating decision-making.
True empowerment can be difficult because our ego tends to get in the way. It wants to tell the world, “Look how great I am – look what I accomplished!” To empower is to let go – let go of your ego, let go of your need to be first or be better or be the one and only.
That mindset will kill team dynamics. Remove yourself from the equation – rise above and ask “what’s best for the team?” Many times, you’re not the best at what the team needs. You won’t be the best shooter or jumper or diver (such as was my case in SEAL Team) nor will you be the best at spreadsheets or financial assessments or operations or design or marketing (once again, such is the case with me in business). That’s okay, YOU DON”T NEED TO BE. Team leaders need to be the better than most at one thing and one thing only: getting the best from their teammates. And how do you think you do that? You’ll do it by understanding your teammates’ skillsets, acknowledging it and putting them in positions to be even better. When you do this, you’ll be taking action on the first “E” of Empower: Engage.
You’ll never understand your team’s true capabilities until you engage with your teammates to grasp their capabilities. Engaging with your teammates is a simple act of showing how much you care about them. The time you take to understand and appreciate the value they bring to the team table not only better educates you, it also sends a message to your teammates that you’re interested in them – that you care. Even better, through this engagement, you can evaluate their strengths, weaknesses and desires for professional improvement. You may not be able to help them all immediately, but it will set you up for success so long as your follow-up remains consistent and your intentions of improvement are sincere.
Engagement gives you the understanding of your teammates – it helps you know the strengths and the “needs improvements” of your team, and this sets you up for action number two: Educate. If you’re not educating your teammates, whether it’s through professional opportunities or sharing lessons learned from On-the-Job-Training (OJT), then you’re not going to build an Unstoppable Team. Educating is like communicating — it’s continuous. It doesn’t need to be formal, but it does need to be a mindset.
In the SEAL Team, the debrief is the most important part of the mission process because the lessons learned are shared with all platoons. The mission planning isn’t shared with everyone, but what’s learned from every mission is. That’s exactly what you want to encourage with your team. You may be thinking: “But marketing doesn’t need to know about lessons learned in finance or design.”
Marketing, finance, design, operations, legal, sales even investor relations and fundraising can all learn from each other. When marketing has a better understanding of how long it takes to make a product change, how that change impacts financial reporting, and the legal ramifications of the change, then they are more empowered to make better decisions. That helps their team and the bigger team, called The Company Team. When you make educating a continuous loop of improvement you’ll be setting yourself up for the final “E” of Empower: Enable.
Engaging your teammates gives you a better understanding; Educating your teammates gives them a better understanding; Enabling your teammates gives your teammates the best understanding of you. And that understanding is how much you care about them. President Teddy Roosevelt got it right when he said:
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
That’s the point of all of this – giving you a framework to show how much you care about your people. Because when you do this, they will care about you, and when a team is a care-based team then it will become Unstoppable at whatever it faces.
To enable your teammates to succeed is an act of selflessness. It proves to them that you care more about the team’s success then your own; that you’re “All-In” at serving them so they can better serve the team. The very act of enabling your teammates is the ultimate expression of letting go of your selfishness and embracing the selflessness required to lead an Unstoppable Team.
Guess what happens when you empower your teammates? You find yourself repeating the CARE framework of Connect, Achieve, Respect and Empower. But this time it isn’t just for one individual, it’s for teams of teams. Now you’re coaching, teaching, inspiring, educating team leaders of other teams so they can build and lead better teams.
That’s the cycle of leadership – it’s never-ending. Teams come and go, but each time they break apart upon accomplishing their objective they send teammates with team knowledge and experience back out into the larger organization to rebuild and lead new teams….and that’s what Building Unstoppable Teams is all about!
Good luck! I’d love to hear about your team challenges. Link In with me, and tell me more.