No individual can make amazing things happen alone. Evolution has conspired to favour species that work together effectively. So it is in business.
This is the fourth shift that aspiring leaders must make: to unleash your teams.
There is much confusion about what this really means. People talk about leading from within, heart-based leadership, authentic leadership, leading without a title and so on. These may all be great concepts but the truth is that leadership is a journey, not a style or concept.
As you work towards unleashing your teams you’ve got to adapt your approach and style to make sure that the right building blocks are in place.
A great friend of mine, Eric Fleming, developed the following model to explain this. Eric is a psychologist and fantastic organisational development specialist, and together we have tested his model across a wide range of organisations. It works exceptionally well and gets rave reviews from executives and teams around the world. He’s writing a book about it, so look out for that.
There are five stages that teams must progress through in order to be unleashed effectively:
Level 1: Establish and clarify. Make sure your team are clear about roles and responsibilities. If they (or you) don’t understand who is doing what and have clarity what needs to get done, then you are not even at base camp. Get there fast! Be direct. Clear?
Level 2: Engage and align. Do your team understand your vision and are they clear about your goals for the business? Are they fully committed to helping you achieve these? Ask better questions and coach them to make sure you know they’ve got it. This is just the second level. Keep going if you’ve got this far.
Level 3: Enable and equip. Establish and develop knowledge, skills and resourcefulness. Attract great people with the best skills and talent and invest in them once they have agreed to work with you. Be a great mentor to them. Remember that giving people the best chance of success in their long-term careers will give you the best chance of long-term success in your business.
Level 4: Empower. Give people accountability. If you want to achieve results beyond your current potential, then you’ve got to trust others. Harness the talent in your team by giving them accountability and responsibility to sort out things and get things done. Make sure that they (and you) keep learning and growing. Better never ends.
Level 5: Extend and unleash. Now you can push your team to break new ground. Now you can provide challenge and pressure where it is most needed. Now you can achieve outstanding and delight your customers. Now you can create raving fans that return to you time and again and recommend your business products or services to others.
Your approach to leadership needs to be different at each level. Initially, you will to be more direct. As you progress you will need to coach and mentor more. And as you unleash you teams you can be much more challenging.
Many leaders move far too early to challenge without working through the earlier stages. They get stressed and want to make change happen fast; and so they start to challenge and push without those earlier foundations in place. These leaders frequently fail. But those who build firm foundations succeed.
Think about it. Steve Jobs, one of the most challenging leaders of our generation, broke new ground that others could only dream of. And yet he went through each stage in succession as he rescued Apple from financial ruin. Before he rescued Apple, people were not clear about the best business strategy and internal conflict was rife. He went back to basics, identifying just four key products that would make Apple cool again. He cut the rest and focused on enabling, equipping and empowering the right people and teams to succeed. Only once he had these foundations in place was he able to extend Apple’s products and services, creating the most valuable company in the world in the process. Only by going through this process was he able to unleash his teams and challenge and stretch them, arguably even beyond the grave. That is his legacy.
What will be your legacy? How will you unleash your teams to achieve their full potential?