Scott Maloney is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Cleveland, and founder of K2M Design, an architecture, engineering and design company. This is the fifth of five posts in our "Empower" series, highlighting stories of empowering your words, strength, family, gratitude and teams from EO member leaders who spoke to an audience of global women entrepreneurs at the 2017 MyEO Women of EO Summit in Athens, GreeceThe following is modified from Scott's speech transcript with permission.


In early 2001, I set out to create a new kind of architectural and design company. I knew who we were. I knew where we were going and what the ideal employee looked like. My travel, project pressures, leadership needs and volunteerism brought to the forefront the need to further empower our team. The more I needed to "step out" of the business, the more evident it became that we needed to further shape our culture so that others could "step up."

Empowerment begins with hiring the right people.

Hire for traits and characteristics

As we honed who we were and what we were to become, we inadvertently began building our employee brand and shaping our culture. It was never about technical skill?that's trainable?rather, we focused on people's intrinsic nature. We assessed every potential employee based on personality, emotional skillset and tendencies. As our depth increased, we began noticing critical tendencies necessary for different positions throughout the organization. For example, candidates who are life-long learners, eager to make a difference, ask "Why?" and are strong problem solvers tend to do well here.

We pre-defined what success looks like for us. We hire people who fit our culture; they assimilate better and faster with our highly empowered team. They think the way we do. They want to have an impact and make things better?that's what we're looking for?and you can't teach it. It's your character, ingrained from age 5.


Empowering people comes down to an element of trust and freedom. Trust them coming out of the gate. Hire thoroughbreds and let them run!  We give employees freedom within the boundaries of achieving our mission and vision. They give us great ideas and solutions: that's the power of our people, of our team. We hire good people who embody our core values and align with our vision. They internalize it, so trust forms rapidly. As long as employees keep our mission and vision in mind, creative problem solving and critical thinking have no limit!

Implement Structure

With trust and freedom comes an inherent need for structure to promote empowerment. We use the Entrepreneurial Operating System's straightforward organizational principles and tools to maximize our business. It provides enough structure to keep our very entrepreneurial company organized but loose enough to give our team flexibility to adapt.

With a healthy, focused leadership team and organization, we make continual progress toward achieving our vision. The best thing about the system is it gives the team power to identify issues, discuss them collectively, and create ideal solutions. Each week, all employees participate in Level 10 meetings. That means they identify, discuss and solve challenges to create a healthier, happier workplace.


How do we check the pulse of our empowered teams? One specific way is through quarterly culture surveys, providing a candid analysis of the great, the good, and the not-so-good at our company. We used to see this as a leadership scorecard until we realized the power this knowledge gave us. It was for the leaders and their teams, so we gave it back to them. Teams identify particular aspects they want to improve?not for the leadership team to solve for them, but for them to solve for themselves. We engage and excite them around their ability to make a mark. Give them the power to make a difference.

For example, in a recent quarterly survey, one office identified the need for better interpersonal engagement with colleagues. Building relationships is one of our core values; it improves work efficiencies and communication. The team created time once a month to relax together; they use it to check in and support each other.  

Reap the Results

What results have we seen?

  • Better long-term solutions versus short-term fixes. Problems don't reoccur because we implement organic solutions: from the team, by the team, for the team.
  • Employees own their experience because they get to think, solve and have control.
  • Retention and loyalty are strong. Employees believe in our mission, vision and values. It's in their blood!
  • Continued growth. Our empowered team helps us grow from the inside out.
  • A healthy recruiting pipeline. We clearly and consistently verbalize who we are and what we stand for in external engagement opportunities. Our employee brand is strong and people relate to that.

Never stop improving

Results don't lie, but we can always improve. Now we're focused on engaging our leaders in a different way?coaching them to lead more and manage less. We teach them how to influence and inspire, lead, be proactive, guide and ask questions that drive us forward together.

To achieve this, I had to get out of the way so our leaders could truly lead. I left our founding office and became a remote employee. We promoted an incredible leader to lead the team. She in turn identified other emerging leaders and is growing and shaping them for the long-term success of our organization.

To engage your team at the highest level, empower them by:

  1. Defining your vision and mission.
  2. Developing your employee brand to support it.
  3. Hiring only candidates that fit your employee brand.
  4. Getting out of the way and trusting.
  5. Utilizing a system that gives employees a structure for success.
  6. Staying engaged and measuring results.
  7. Celebrating successes and employee growth.