Effective leaders learn early in their careers that they can’t manage whole projects singlehandedly. They need an empowered team working collaboratively to achieve goals. In our new book, Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster, my coauthors Jane Ripley, Eunice-Parisi Carew, and I explain the importance of empowering yourself as a leader and building collaboration by empowering your team.
In past blogs, I described the first four elements of the UNITE acronym that we developed to help describe what it takes to build a collaborative culture: Utilize differences; Nurture safety and trust; Involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals; and Talk Openly. Today I want to share more about the fifth element—Empower yourself and others.
When I think of a leader trying to go it alone, I imagine a crew team with only one oar in the water. It isn’t hard to realize that the boat isn’t going to get very far with only one person rowing. But, when all oars are in the water and team members are working together, the boat seems to glide over the water without effort. The same is true when a leader tries to manage all aspects of a project. Doing it alone just isn’t efficient. Having an empowered team take initiative and accept responsibility is the most effective way to not only reach goals but exceed them.
It is important to remember that a collaborative leader must still set work direction, resolve conflicts, and remove obstacles. However, with an empowered team the role of leader is to coach the team members and support collaboration. Leader and team members work together with a unified vision, complete trust in each other, and open communication in a truly collaborative culture.
How well do you think you are empowering yourself and your team? Ask yourself these questions.
- Do I continually work to develop my competence?
- Do I feel empowered to give my opinions during idea sessions, even if I disagree?
- Do I actively build and share my network with others?
- Do I share my skills and knowledge with other departments?
- Do I believe my work is important to the organization?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, you probably feel empowered yourself and serve as a role model for your team members to become empowered, too. If you answered no to any of the questions, think about what you can do to change your behavior. Encourage your direct reports to collaborate not only with team members, but also with others in the organization. I guarantee you’ll see people start to share knowledge, generate new ideas, and reach higher levels of performance—all in a culture of collaboration.