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June 2012 Archives

Aligning Your Team through Strategic Planning

Published on: Jun 25, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Strategy, Organizational Leadership, Goals, Productivity, Organizations

Strategic planning processes begin at the organizational level. Those who can see the big picture develop strategies that set direction. They also develop goals that the entire organization will be expected to achieve. The farther a person is from senior leadership the greater the risk that he or she ignores these goals. Many people, whom I have asked when working with large organizations, indicate that they feel little or no responsibility for corporate goals. Beyond that, they also indicate they do not believe their actions affect the outcome of those goals in any real way. 

If most people who are not senior leaders in an organization ignore corporate goals, what is the potential that they will be achieved? There is a perspective problem. Perhaps that is why many managers assume corporate goals will not change much each year. Most people are ignoring them. 

When you make progress toward corporate goals, it will be because enough individuals are aligned with them to contribute. Individual contributions accumulate, resulting in collective success.  The primary place that individuals in a company can connect to corporate goals is through the work group. 

In many organizations, managers are expected to ensure individuals set goals that connect to a corporate goal.  This approach attempts to align individuals, making some impact, but it misses the opportunity to connect the person to the organization through the team. 

As a team leader, you connect the team to the organization when you set team goals. Team goals should align with corporate goals, but team members will be more closely connected to team goals than corporate goals. Team actions to achieve team goals complete the team’s strategic plan while aligning the team within the organization. As a result, individuals are contributing to corporate goals.

 Your plan should have these three attributes: 


Your plans should be strategic. That is, the plan defines how you will make progress in areas you are not achieving desired results. It should provide measurement to gauge progress. If the goals in your plan are achieved you should make significant progress as you support corporate goals.


 Innovation has become a buzzword as everyone strives to achieve it. As it relates to your team’s strategic plan, it means you plan to take different actions than you have taken in the past. Current performance is a result of past actions. If you want to perform at a different level, it will take a different set of actions.


Implement your plan as your team members set individual goals that support team goals and assume responsibility for their completion. Ensure the individual actions that support individual, team, and corporate goals are included in team members’ daily activities. Set this expectation and check in so you know how they are progressing toward their goals. Monitor team goals, as they should reflect the achievement of individual team member goals.

 When you, as a team leader, align your team with corporate goals through a team strategic planning process, you will effectively fulfill your responsibility within the organization. This positive outcome will benefit you, your team, and the company.

Four Practices that Support Empowerment

Published on: Jun 19, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Empowerment, Productivity, Team Leadership

The Road

If you are like me, you may naturally think in terms of events. Communication is an event, meetings are events, writing or reading an email is an event and giving work away is an event. This is not a particularly accurate perspective. Most of the time, I benefit from thinking in terms of process.  An event, then, becomes one-step in a process. Communication is a process, meetings are processes and parts of processes, and giving work away is a process. 

Empowering a person is not an event. It is a process. If you simply give someone work and believe you can check “task complete” off of your to do list, you will find yourself experiencing undesirable consequences. 

Some practices that will improve your process of giving work away include know the person, communicate clearly, promote discovery, and check in regularly. 

Know the Person 

When you give work to someone else that becomes his or her work, you need to know that person. Strengths, weaknesses, personality, experience, training, workload, and skills represent some of the information that is useful to a leader empowering a team member. 

Communicate Clearly 

Communication is a process. Focus on giving all of the information the team member needs to own the responsibility. You walk a fine line between providing the information needed to think though ownership of a responsibility and telling a person what to do. Be clear about expected outcome and any non-negotiable that must be met in completing the work. For instance, one non-negotiable in my team is that you must complete your work in a way that benefits everyone it impacts. 

Promote Discovery 

Instead of telling the person you are empowering how to do the work, let the information you provide combined with what you learn about him or her come together as that person engages in the work. Suggest that he or she determine the best way to get the job done. Give the new responsibility owner a chance to discover new and better ways to accomplish the job. Position him or her to take acceptable risk. 

Check in Regularly

When you give a person whom you do not have experience working with responsibility, check in regularly. Do this from the perspective of being helpful and supportive. Ask them about any questions they have or identify resources they lack. This is an initial accountability level that, when offered in a supportive manner, does not feel like accountability. As the person demonstrates proficiency and confidence, the need to check-in diminishes. If he or she is struggling, you will catch it early and ensure they are supported for success. 

If your empowerment process includes these four practices, you will ensure ownership in responsibility and success for those you empower. Is it true that when those you lead are successful, you as a leader are successful? I believe it is. 

Empowerment and Alignment

Published on: Jun 11, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Empowerment, Management, Organizational Leadership, Goals, Mission, Vision, Values

 The individual contribution of everyone in an organization contributes to its performance. It is this collective effort, when appropriately directed, that makes a company successful. Organizations rely on senior leadership to set direction, but ensuring that everyone throughout a company positively contributes is a different challenge. That is where management engages. The typical management practice is for a supervisor to receive responsibility and delegate it to individuals to accomplish work. In practice, the work remains the responsibility of the supervisor while completed by an employee. This appears to align an organization by making sure everyone knows exactly what to do. 

The problem with this approach: it is not working. The result of delegation is low ownership, limited engagement, death of creativity, limited responsibility, unmet expectations, conflict, and low morale. 

Organizations achieve alignment through empowerment. I differentiated empowerment and accountability in a previous blog.The basic difference is the ownership of the work. In delegation, the work belongs to the one giving it away. Empowerment occurs when a person is given his or her work. 

Leaders at the senior level must design an organization that supports empowerment and expects alignment. When these two conditions are met, collective contribution engages teams and individuals in a shared direction. The organization, team, and individual align and move in the direction set by senior leadership. Each level has distinct responsibilities. 


At the organizational level mission, vision, and values must be clearly defined and compelling. If they simply hang on the wall and are written on cards to be placed with employee badges they have little impact. Beyond the direction these provide, measurable, strategic goals should be provided consistently and in a timely manner. When organizational goals are provided after the actions that will make them successful should have started, they are seldom achieved.

Sailing together


At the work group level, teams collectively connect to organizational mission, vision, and values as well as setting goals that connect them to other teams in the organization. Team is defined as any group at any level of an organization where everyone shares a responsibility. The cascading goals that are developed by teams at all levels of the company should all feed into the organizational goals. 


Individuals connect to an organization through the team or work group. When a team has defined and understood its connection to the organization and each person shares responsibility for the collective outcome, individual goals should be set. To be fully aligned, personal mission, vision, and values will connect to the organization through the team. Individual goals then support team goals that support organizational goals. 

When each organizational level aligns, groups and individuals can be empowered. Without alignment, empowerment becomes chaos as each person and work group operates in a disconnected, misdirected manner.

Human Resources and Your Team

Published on: Jun 04, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Productivity, Empowerment, Weakness, Strength, Management

Some question the term “human resources” because they believe it may objectify people. Based on that definition people become resources like computers, desks, phones, or vehicles. While few managers would agree with this view and even though most companies say that people are their greatest resource, employees at times perceive they are treated like objects. Traditional management practices tend to create this perception, and many times do so without intention. This does not make human resources a bad term, but simply a bad definition that has developed over time. 


It is true that people are human and, in my experience, people desire to be a valuable, contributing resource at work. Resource becomes derogatory when organizations use people without consideration of their humanity. In that case, they define the person without consideration of who they are and who they can become. This occurs when managers attempt to conform people to their expectations without consideration of each person’s uniqueness. 

Once you, as a leader, take the responsibility to understand the people on your team based on each person’s unique ability to contribute, human resources will be redefined. Three practices will begin your development of this capacity. 


Leaders develop the capacity to understand people, clarifying both individual and group potential.  The primary skill required is nonjudgmental observation. All of the information you need is readily available and accessible. Watch and listen to learn about those you lead and position them to contribute successfully. 


This is a challenge because many of those you lead today are not fully aware of their own potential. As you learn about the people you lead, you will also guide them to become more aware of their own capacity. I hear discussion about employee engagement. One of the keys to engagement is awareness of the capacity each person possesses. It is their abilities, strengths, and knowledge that they must be aware of and you must engage. 


When you observe potential in a person on your team, position them to discover it. Allow him or her to investigate personal potential by attempting something he or she has not yet mastered. Do not set a person up for a level of failure that discourages him or her and puts the outcome at unacceptable risk. Do challenge them beyond their current contribution level. Present the opportunity based on your observation of unrecognized potential. The learning opportunity is an investment whether the person succeeds easily or struggles toward mastery of new skills. 

PeopleThe leadership capacity of development is important because it ensures that people are appreciated as a resource based on personal uniqueness. You appreciate who a person is by engaging everyone based on what each individual is best equipped to accomplish. Beyond that, you give every individual the opportunity to excel beyond personal expectations. With this practice, you, your team, and the organization will benefit from the individual and collective performance results. 

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