One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to find ways to get more out of the teams they lead. More top and bottom line growth, greater productivity, bigger ideas, more efficiency, greater cost savings. The best leaders find ways to do all of this while growing each team member as an individual (and the team as a collective unit) as well.
And the best leaders at Google-- who are already a pretty darn talented group -- do four things in particular to stretch and grow their teams better than your run-of-the-mill leader would.
Google even shares an online guide detailing exactly what it takes to do this. Here, I'll share a synopsis of how to empower, stretch, and grow via the four points that follow along with my own perspective from stretching and growing teams over a three-decade career.
1. Don't micromanage -- macromanage instead.
The Google guide encourages managers to delegate work to their teams. I wholeheartedly agree, but there's important perspective left out. You have to effectively delegate, not dump.
The truth is it takes work to give away work and the best leaders invest what it takes to do it right. For a leader to be effective at delegating, he or she must establish clear goals, timelines, and measures for the delegated work. It requires explaining what the work entails, giving guidance on how to overcome obstacles that may come up, and providing the necessary overall training and resources required to do the work well.
Delegating also doesn't mean you can just give away the work and then check out. It requires staying available for coaching along the way and setting regular check-in points to help bust barriers.
Some leaders can resist micromanaging but still not be good macromanagers. This means spending your time on the most important, macro-level things as a leader. It means being sure to truly understand the big picture behind the work that's being delegated, being able to see around corners for the team, and being able to anticipate issues on a broad industry level.
It involves picking the biggest challenges to focus on, the biggest priorities to put resources behind, and knowing just enough about every part of the business to be able to give solid direction without over-directing.
2. Give people freedom to run--but not into a brick wall.
This is a tricky balance to get right, but is extremely empowering when you do. The best leaders know that people have far more energy for their own ideas than when they are told to run with the boss's idea. True for yourself, too, no?
It's important to not only let people run with their ideas, but also to show genuine enthusiasm for those ideas. Help the ideas along by providing input (when appropriate), resources, and key connections to help the ideas advance and by setting up meetings with the right people when it comes time for the employee to sell the idea.
But there's a balance here. At some point, your experience has to sound an alarm if you see the employee and the idea headed for a train wreck. It can be just as empowering to shut down a doomed--idea if you do so with the right spirit.
You do that by clearly explaining why the plug must be pulled on the idea, reviewing with the employee what was learned along the way, and encouraging them to get right back on the horse and pursue their next idea with merit.
3. Give the team the gift of your trust and belief.
One of my favorite tricks as a manager was to go to a project meeting that a subordinate was also attending, and then, at the last minute bail on the meeting and tell the rest of the group that I realized that Sally Subordinate was more than qualified and skilled to handle the meeting than I--and that I wasn't needed.
However you show your trust to an employee and a team, do it. That trust is not only empowering, it also stretches and grows people because they do not want to let you down for having shown that trust, and they'll double their effort as a result. Even though trust was granted, people yearn to show it was deserved.
4. Trumpet the team's accomplishments.
Some of the best leaders I've worked for were skilled at making sure our team's efforts and accomplishments did not go unnoticed. They put effort behind how to share the accomplishments with the broader organization, fueling it with personal and insightful comments about each team member, and sharing what about the accomplishment was so important. Empowering. Energizing. Essential.
Here's to hoping you personally stretch and grow as you learn from Google how to help your team do the same.