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Blog Entries by Tag: Empowerment

Creating Employee Ownership through the Five Levels of Accountability

Published on: Oct 02, 2012 | Tags: Accountability, Productivity, Management, Team Leadership, Feedback, Empowerment, Delegation

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Many managers find the practice of holding employees accountable difficult. At the same time, they resist empowering those employees to make decisions and take action, limiting performance.

There is a connection between the ability to hold an employee accountable and the willingness to empower that employee for performance and goal achievement.

Our webinar, Creating Employee Ownership through the Five Levels of Accountability,  provides you with methods that make accountability a positive experience for both the manager and employee. 

Watch it on YouTube.




How the Five Levels of Accountability Create Employee Empowerment

Published on: Sep 10, 2012 | Tags: Employee Motivation, Management, Empowerment, Productivity, Team Leadership, Feedback

Accountability is the obligation to take responsibility. In terms of management, holding someone accountable is the idea that you are exerting control to ensure work is accomplished. It is true that, at the extreme, holding someone accountable is giving him or her the choice to achieve a prescribed result or not. At the basic level, there are usually consequences associated with the non-compliant choice. It is important to recognize this is not control.

 Control is an illusion! Control resides in the choice of the employee.

What is accountability if it is not employee control? Accountability is about employee freedom. Empowerment.

 When you position someone for accountability, you are acknowledging the reality that no matter what you do, in the end, his or her choice is the determining factor of the outcome. That is why the way you lead is critical to your ability to hold someone accountable.

 You can rely on the five levels of accountability to position individuals to make the right choice. They are: 

  1. Service
  2. Feedback
  3. Development
  4. Empowerment
  5. Discipline 

We will discuss these in our upcoming complimentary webinar, Creating Employee Ownership through the Five Levels of Accountability. This is our second and last time to offer it this year so don’t miss out. It will held be on Friday, September 28 at 1 p.m. Sign up here. 

Before you develop the capacity to practice each of these, it is important to understand how they create employee freedom. Each one progressively positions the team member to take ownership of his or her work. Therefore, they are not separate practices, but build upon each other. Blocks

The effective leader begins with service and builds upon service with feedback. He or she does not shift from one to the other, but builds one upon the other. Each prior practice should be in place before you move to the next one. 


Service is the foundation for feedback, 

Service and feedback are the foundation for development, 

Service, feedback, and development are the foundation for empowerment, 

And finally… 

Service, feedback, development, and empowerment are the foundation for discipline. 

The leader who masters these practices positions both the team and individual for the freedom to make the right decisions and take the right actions. I have trained leaders in these practices who have developed capacity in each one. These leaders acknowledge it is hard work. 

Leaders also find it is less work than attempting to control the uncontrollable. Is that what you feel like you are doing some days? 

A first step to developing capacity in these practices is our complimentary webinar. The previously mentioned webinar is a great place to find out more. Sign up here.

Three Ways Delegation Kills Accountability

Published on: Aug 19, 2012 | Tags: Productivity, Empowerment, Management, Delegation



The positive consequence of delegating is work distribution. This practice allows a supervisor to accomplish more, but are there detrimental consequences as well? Unintended consequences are defined by Wikipedia as an unexpected outcome, whether beneficial or detrimental, to an action designed to achieve a desired result. 

There are times when an unintended consequence is obvious, such as the day I intended to encourage a colleague and my words angered him. We worked through that detrimental consequence. However, there are other times it is not so obvious, yet equally detrimental.

The additional consequences that traditional delegation practices create should be recognized. Take a few moments and reflect on these: 

  • When someone is delegated a task and told how to do it, that person is expected to follow directions. He or she cannot contribute beyond those directions, leaving any potential for improvement based on personal qualifications unrealized. 
  • When someone is delegated a task and told how to do it, that person is only responsible for following directions. He or she is not responsible for the quality of the outcome beyond the result of those directions. 
  • As long as delegation is doing someone else’s work, the person receiving the work is not ultimately accountable. The person giving the work away maintains primary accountability. 

If you supervise people and practice delegation, you may wonder why people don’t take more ownership of the work. You might find yourself frustrated because people only do what is expected. 

Additionally, you may feel at risk because your team members don’t seem to care about your accountability to the organization. In the end, you may decide it is better to do the work yourself. 

If any of these scenarios represent your experience, you are living through the unintended consequences of delegation as a traditional management practice. There is an alternative. 

I define empowerment as the ability to transfer ownership to another, freeing him or her to contribute all he or she brings without sacrificing the mission or direction of the organization and team. The failure to differentiate empowerment and delegation is a trap that limits possibilities for effective leadership. It matters how you define delegate! How has delegation created unintended consequences for you?

Do you know this secret to employee motivation?

Published on: Aug 13, 2012 | Tags: Self Leadership, Productivity, Empowerment, Employee Motivation

Standing in a corridor responding to an email, a gentleman walked by and engaged me in a brief conversation. At the end of the conversation, he told me that if I wanted the best shoeshine I have ever had, stop by his stand in the shop down the hall. Since, until that day, I am the only one who had shined my shoes it was not hard to imagine that his might be the best shoeshine I had ever experienced. Shoe Shine

I went into the shop for the shoeshine, not because I thought I needed one. I liked the gentleman. As he shined my shoes, we talked. He has shined shoes for 40 years, but is working on a college degree. His was an interesting story. At some point in the conversation, I asked him why he shines shoes. He said, “Because I love to shine shoes, that is why I am so good at it.” Talk about motivation at work. 

I think he is on to something, don’t you? Love what you do and you will become good at it. That has implications for motivation. 

As a leader, you desire those you lead to perform at high levels. They need to be focused and very productive. Leaders spend significant energy ensuring this occurs, struggling with employee motivation and accountability when it does not. 

Have you ever had to hold someone accountable who loves what they do? I haven’t. There is no need for motivating employees in this scenario. 

I was inspired to make sure I do what I love and love what I do that day. No one has had to motivate me or hold me accountable for that. 

Here are four tips that will position you, as a leader, to enjoy the benefit of team members who love what they do. 

Hire Them - 

When you are interviewing people you will lead, ask them what they love to do. Make sure that at least some significant portion of their job is work they love to do. 

Watch Them – 

You can see the intensity, passion, and engagement that a person experiences when they love what they do. Many times, after a presentation, someone will express appreciation. I respond, “Thank you for letting me do what I love to do.”  They tell me that it is obvious as they watch me. 

Listen to Them – 

Listen to what those you lead say about their work when not asked. Positive expressions made to customers, co-workers, suppliers, partners, or you provide insight. When you hear them, provide that person more opportunity to do what he or she loves to do. 

Ask them - 

If all else fails, ask them. You may raise a person’s own recognition of what he or she loves to do. By the way, it is a great question to ask yourself. 

I have to admit, I can’t imagine loving many jobs that must be done (including shining shoes). I have also observed people who love to do most of those jobs. 

You may not understand why a person you lead loves his or her job. That is ok. You don’t have to understand it to ensure both that person and you, as his or her leader, benefit. 

What do you love about your work? Let me know in the comments below.

Navigating Empowerment

Published on: Jul 30, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Leadership, Empowerment, Productivity, Adaptability, Management

In our webinar last week, we considered creating self-accountability that leads to ownership of responsibility by your team. Once a person becomes accountable to him or herself, you have to navigate the level of empowerment you have provided. This is different from navigating delegation as I discussed in a previous post

Empowering a person or team does not imply that there is no ongoing need for leadership. Some leadership models suggest when a person is proficient in his or her role they need less leadership. That may be true in a world that moves at a slow pace with little change, but in a fast paced, high change environment it is risky. 

NaivgateIf you are a leader attempting to clarify your team’s leadership needs once you have empowered them, here are three suggestions. 

1. Scout the Future 

Make sure you look ahead to you understand the emerging dynamics that will impact your team. This can include, but is not limited to, changes in your company, client expectations, technology, regulation, market competition, and resource availability. 

Effective navigation requires interpretation of the many variables that directly and indirectly influence your team’s ability to maintain or adjust course. 

2. Update Headings 

Your team is empowered collectively and individually because you have oriented them and they are headed in the right direction. There are times that headings must be adjusted, or even completely changed. Empowerment results in the capacity to adapt without losing morale or momentum. 

If you have scouted the future well, your team benefits from understanding heading adjustments as early as possible. Because of more time to adapt, minor changes in heading are less disruptive than major reversals,which can result in chaos and discontinuity. 

3. Invest in the Team and Individuals 

One definite benefit of empowerment develops from the knowledge a leader has of his or her team. This develops from understanding each team member. The leader clarifies individual capabilities and observes of how that translates into team performance. At that point, the leader can make investments in individuals and the group that will improve performance, raise productivity, and prepare the team for future skill requirements. 

Many managers long for the opportunity to think about the future, become proactive in change, and elevate the performance of the team. Most don’t see any way to get there. 

The path is an empowered team. If you navigate the team to empowerment, you will then navigate an empowered team. 


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. 

Team Leadership System Case Study

Published on: Apr 16, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Empowerment, Productivity, Goals, Management, Trimergent

Team PlayerManagers face growing challenges in the new workplace. Many seek out knowledge and skills that position them to lead effectively by participating in professional development opportunities. Unfortunately, many of the practices they learn do not solve the problems when they return to their team, but in some instances seem to perpetuate them. With growing frustration, the manager and employees attempt the same solutions repeatedly and the problems do not subside. That was Cathleen’s experience as she led her call center team.

 Cathleen sought training because of conflict and productivity challenges in her team. Team members were not mutually supportive and struggled to work together. Beyond the negative work environment, individual and team goals were suffering. This in spite of the fact that she had taken several management courses that taught skills which were not working in practice. Cathleen said, “During previous management courses I learned to resolve issues and conflicts as they came. In many situations, this meant to fix the upcoming issues on my own. Team members were not held accountable for their actions.”

 When Cathleen met with the J. Clint Anderson Company, she indicated she had tried everything she learned to address the situation, and nothing was working.

 J. Clint Anderson, Ph.D. provided coaching based on the Trimergent Leadership® System Leading Teams process, including training in conflict resolution. Her team members also participated in our Being a Team Player course. This approach to team leadership and teamwork does not rely on the 100-year-old practices of scientific management, and is not a revision of its principles base on updated language. The Trimergent Leadership® System has been developed from the ground up over the last decade. It is based on the latest research and understanding of organizations. As a result, it transforms the way people work together.

 The coaching included a method of providing feedback that ensures accountability for both a team member’s impact on others and goal achievement. Team members began to take ownership of the solutions that ultimately made a difference in the team. Cathleen was also coached through an evaluation of the goal setting process and made significant changes to her approach. The new approach to setting goals resulted in team member participation that also created ownership.

Cathleen shared, “With the new approach Team members have the opportunity to set their own personal monthly goal. This works perfectly for all members participating in the goal setting. In the past, I gave all Team members their goal during a one on one session. With this new approach, Team members are individually responsible for the overall Team goal. This can be seen as a great success for the entire Call Center”

 Cathleen’s new skills and practices, combined with team members’ understanding how to be a team player, made a real difference by the time the coaching process ended. In her last meeting with the coach, Cathleen indicated the entire work environment had improved and the team met its shared goal.  Beyond that Cathleen stated, “In February 2012 the Team has met their highest collections goal since the existence of the Call center.” After two years, the skills and practices Cathleen established continue to support a positive team environment and high productivity.

Directing Without Dominating

Published on: Apr 02, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Empowerment, Management, Productivity, Decision Making

To build a team, a leader must initially be directive. Many whom I have introduced to team leadership initially push back because they interpret empowerment as everyone doing as each person desires. They define collaboration and consensus as the requirement to make every team member happy, therefore impossible to practice.

Based on this understanding of empowerment, a team becomes a chaotic activity committee where every individual does what they want and the group can’t get anything done. Some who attempt to build a team based on this understanding see the chaos and become more controlling than they were before the experiment. 

This common failure to understand that team leadership is initially directive results in managers abandoning fundamental truths about teamwork. Much of this confusion may lie in the definition of directive leadership. Directing is not dominating. 

  1. Dominating leadership is common practice by many managers and can best be described as top down. 
  • This person leads from position. “I am the boss and you have to do what I say.” Because of the basic need to control the outcome, the dominating leader tells people what to do. 
  • This manager is sure that others do not know the right way to do the work (his way, of course). This grows from observation of failures that validate the belief (and ignoring anything that invalidates it). People have not met his standards in the past, so it is not probable that a person will do so in the future. He may have a low opinion of people evidenced by his low level of confidence in them to complete a job well. 
  • Because of his low trust in others, this leader dominates from position. He fears being blamed, so he blames others, perhaps even when they do what he said.  This transactional leader focuses on self-needs rather than the team. 

While this description sounds harsh, it is at some level the practice of many managers today. Compass

  1. Teams initially need directing leaders. These leaders ensure the group of people tasked to work together becomes a high performance team
  • While a directing leader has position, she relies on developing positive influence with the team as she builds trust. She has asked and answered the question, “What kind of leader do people want to follow?” 
  • This leader understands that bottom up means the person or persons responsible for execution of a decision should make it.  Being fully aware that she does not know everything, she engages team members in discovering the best solutions by directing the quality of their interactions. A team leader is more concerned with the quality of the decision making process than predetermining a decision’s outcome. 
  • Based in the belief that people can achieve and will do so when given the opportunity, she intentionally includes them. Little concern for, or fear of, blame results from this focus on problem solving.  

This transformational leader takes a group of individuals and positions them for empowerment that grows out of relationships and commitment that result in collaboration for consensus. They, by definition, become a team

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