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Blog Entries by Tag: Organizational Leadership

Three Keys to Move Beyond Employee Engagement to Ownership

Published on: Sep 04, 2012 | Tags: Team Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Organizations, Organizational Development, Mission, Vision, Employee Motivation

I have been married for some time. I became engaged in 1977. That engagement had many implications that can only be appreciated after thirty-four years of marriage. Engagement implies connection, desire, hope, investment, and commitment. If I had not moved beyond engagement in those 35 years, you might question my intentions.Engagement

 I am aware working for a company is not a marriage, but it is a commitment that results in a quality of relationship. The relationship is influenced by connection, desire, hope, commitment, and mutual benefit of those who create the organization.

 Many employees tell me they do not experience these qualities in their organizations. That may be why we have such a difficult time defining employee engagement or determining how to measure it effectively.

 Those who do have this quality of relationship to their company have moved beyond engagement to ownership. They are connected, contributing, and finding fulfillment in being a part of the company that makes this quality of connection possible. Engagement is important because it is the path to ownership.

 What is it that moves people from engagement to ownership?

1.  Clear, Compelling Direction 

The leadership capacity of vision sets a clear compelling direction for the organization. When an organization has a vision that its members desire to be a part of and become willing to create, ownership develops. 

2.  A Shared Mission that Transforms

The leadership capacity of transformation integrates stakeholders into the mission of the organization. Mission brings meaning to work by defining why it is important and the difference it makes. Work is work. Many days it is challenging, tiring, and mundane. Mission is meaning that defines why work is important. A mission worth sharing and owning moves people beyond engagement. 

3.  Skilled Leadership 

Leaders with the capacity to engage people in a compelling vision and a transforming mission can create ownership. This occurs at the team level as that is the primary connection point for the individual. Most leaders cultivate this capacity through development over time. 

As you may have noticed, there are two leadership levels required to develop engagement that creates ownership. Leaders at the organizational level have to provide a compelling vision and transforming mission. Team leaders then have the resources to connect people to an organization in a manner that creates ownership. 

Our complimentary webinar, Creating Employee Ownership through the Five Levels of Accountability, is a resource that will equip team leaders to make that connection. This is our second and last time to offer it this year so don’t miss out. It will be on Friday, September 28 at 1 p.m. Sign up here.


Published on: Jul 10, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Leadership, Management, Organizational Leadership, Productivity, Self Leadership

Self AccountabilityIn a recent course, we discussed discipline and self-discipline. When some heard the word discipline, they assumed it included self-discipline. We spent some time differentiating the two. In some cases, the differentiation is not very important, but in the context of our discussion, it was very important. We defined discipline as that which is imposed on us by someone who has the authority to assign consequences if we fail to respond. Self-discipline is that which we impose on our self. The discussion ended with all preferring to practice self-discipline, avoiding discipline by another. It seems to me the same logic applies to accountability. 

Typically, when a leader thinks about accountability, it relates to potential discipline that he or she may impose on another. While some leaders do not relish this responsibility, most recognize it is part of leadership. If there is no accountability, the quantity or quality of work suffers. Traditionally, those who hold others accountable rely on position and authority to exert accountability. 

It is possible for people to hold themselves accountable. We know this, but one might question whether this can become the primary approach to accountability in an organization.  It can if leaders use position and authority differently. A leader uses his or her position and authority to situate followers for self-accountability. To accomplish this, the leader must be intentional with every step he or she takes in developing the leader-follower relationship. 

Consider the potential of people being accountable to self for the results of their work, and their impact on co-workers. 

  • Personal Responsibility
  • Teamwork
  • Goal Achievement
  • Engagement
  • Personal Success
  • Ownership

 Ultimately, a person with a greater sense of personal accountability benefits an organization as well. 

  • Improved productivity
  • Connection to the team and company
  • Commitment
  • Long term employment
  • Higher level of contribution
  • Positive culture 

This is a “win-win” scenario! I can easily see that barriers to self-accountability are well worth overcoming. The question is how to lead in a manner that people begin to practice self-accountability.  Four primary barriers you can anticipate include: 

  1. History – Leaders and followers have history to overcome. This shared history has resulted in established behavioral patterns that are accepted and comfortable. Even though they do not represent the most effective concepts and practices for creating self-accountability, they are well established
  2. Organizational Resources – I have heard many leaders express frustration over resource limitations. The perception of inadequate resources should not limit self-accountability. Organizational leaders must design an organization with clear direction, clear expectations for leaders and followers, and leadership that knows how to develop people.
  3. Management Style – While many leaders would celebrate people on their team whose first level of accountability is self, they are not sure how to lead them there. Even though leaders know that present approaches to managing people are not working, they continue to practice them. When one is not aware of alternative concepts and practices, that person continues to do what they have done. The basic assumption is that he or she has to live with the results they currently experience.
  4. Change – Organizational, group, and individual change continues to be a hot topic. Even with all of the talk of change, most of us don’t like it. This is particularly true when we are not sure what will change, how to change, and where the change will lead. When a person has not possessed a sense of self-accountability, that expectation is a big change. A change avoided at all costs by many. 

The benefits of self-accountability far outweigh the barriers to its practice. Our upcoming, complimentary webinar Creating Employee Ownership through the Five Levels of Accountability will introduce you to an approach to accountability that overcomes these barriers. You can participate on Wednesday, July 25 from 11 am to 12 pm by signing up here.

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.

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.

Evidence of Buy-in

Published on: May 29, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Productivity, Strategy, Organizations

Buy-in Help

Leaders value buy-in to their team or organization’s direction. The assurance that those you lead have bought-in brings a leader reassurance. It gives hope to the leader that he or she actually influences the direction of the team or organization towards success. To know that those you lead have bought-in, you have to know what buy-in looks like. 

If you want to evaluate whether those you lead have bought-in, there are three observations that will provide insight. 

  1. Team members share responsibility 

Assuming responsibility for results that support the defined direction is a key indicator that team members have bought-in. Shared responsibility can be observed in individual and group decision making. When individuals make decisions that support the direction of the team or organization without requiring feedback from a leader or co-worker, they are expressing buy-in. The team has bought in when discussions, reports, and group decisions intentionally drive for results that direct movement down the defined path. 

  1. Team members support one another 

When a people buy-into a direction that results in shared responsibility, they support one another in getting there. Individualism goes “out the window.” When you, as a leader, observe people supporting one another because they recognize the cumulative result of their work, they have bought into the direction of the team as well as the organization. 

  1. Team members contributing resources 

Contributing the minimum or the basic requirements does not reflect buy-in. People express buy-in with contribution beyond the basic expectations.  When a leader observes people exceeding expectations, and at times acting sacrificially, they are bought-in. Resources can include time, expertise, budget, or space. 

Buy-in’s benefits are not difficult to measure short or long-term. In the short-term strategies are successful as measured by goal achievement at all levels. In the long term, vision becomes reality by creating value, the visible evidence of sustainability. The leaders challenge becomes defining direction and communicating it in an organization designed to engender buy-in. Do the people in your organization and on your team have a clear direction to buy into?

Leadership Credibility through Accountability

Published on: May 07, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Productivity, Management, Organizational Leadership, Organizations, Communication

Accountability, when discussed in organizations, usually focuses on employees as subordinates. Managers expect people to be accountable for the results of their work, as they should. A problem develops when people are not as productive as expected and managers cannot or do not hold people accountable. This occurs in spite of the coaching and counseling training that many organizations rely on as the way for managers to approach their responsibility. When the initial focus of accountability is on the person in the subordinate position, it is difficult for accountability to work. The initial focus of accountability should be on the leader. Account

The leader should be accountable for his or her leadership before he or she expects accountability from others. The way to accountability as a leader is through credibility. People tend to embrace accountability to someone who is equally accountable to them. When you, as a leader, fulfill your role well you become someone to whom others willingly become accountable. Voluntary accountability is much more powerful than relying on authority and power. Becoming credible requires attention and intention to your leadership role. Here are three ways to build your credibility in a way that develops accountability. 

Create ownership by offering opportunity 

I find that leaders value people who take ownership in their work. Ownership increases accountability. If you, as a leader, want to increase ownership, then be accountable to provide people the opportunity to own their work. It must be work worth owning from their perspective. They have little interest in doing your work. Unless you are accountable to provide opportunity, you may find it difficult to hold them accountable as owners. 

See results by positioning people to achieve – 

The fundamental need for accountability develops when one fails to meet expected results. I have worked with managers who believe people do not want to or cannot succeed so they exert control that results in micro-management. In the end, these managers still struggle to find significant productivity. If you want people to deliver results, be accountable to position them to achieve. Most people can achieve more than they realize. An effective leader positions team members to surprise themselves, even though he or she is not surprised. He or she sees the potential in people and believes they want to succeed. 

Experience progress by developing healthy relationships – 

Many times, work groups cannot progress because people do not work well together. Even maintaining the status quo presents a challenge in these cases. Managers get frustrated from endless turbulence. If you want people to progress in the ability to work together, you as a leader must be accountable to develop healthy relationships within the team. If you do not fulfill your accountability to guide people on your team out of relational turbulence, you should not expect them to progress in their ability to work together. 

There are many ways a leader can be accountable to followers at both the team and organizational level. If you want to increase accountability from those in your organization or on you team, first make sure you are credible as a leader. You will find the willingness of people to be accountable to you increases with your credibility.

The Hidden Resources in Your Team

Published on: Feb 27, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Productivity, Organizational Leadership, Management, Team Leadership

Companies stretch people to their limits today. I recently heard someone comment that he cannot get all of his work done for the first time in his career. In many companies, unanswered emails, missed deadlines, late projects, and stress grow. Most employees do not complain because they are glad to have a job. However, one might surmise there is a capacity limit that will eventually result in either less work completed or more people hired. Coupling the current economic realities with unemployment fear is one way to leverage all of the capacity in a workforce. This strategy will not work for long-term productivity. Even the casual observer can predict burnout and engagement losses.  When that day arrives, a significant shift will occur in how companies view “human resources.”

The question may be, when the shift occurs, how to grow productivity in a burnt-out workforce? Many companies will (and are) attempting to address this issue at the corporate level. This is appropriate as it creates an environment that supports change. The real change that has to occur, however, is at the supervisory level. If the leaders who directly manage a person maintain the same practices, no program from an organizational level will make any significant impact. The team is where individuals connect to an organization. The group leader can be the determining factor in both improving the work context and increasing productivity. If that is your role, there are real steps you can take.

 The goal is to tap into the hidden resources in your team. Passion is one example of the many personal resources that are available to the individuals you work with. Passion intrinsically motivates when brought to the workplace, becoming a resource. It results in activity that rewards an individual in ways others do not understand. When people bring passions to work responsibilities, both motivation and productivity grow. Take the time to guide your team through the exploration of individual passions to discover those interests that ignite a fire of motivation.

When Organizational Change Becomes Organizational Evolution

Published on: Oct 24, 2011 | Tags: General, Organizations, Change Management, Organizational Leadership

Organizations experience change and evolution similarly. They should also be differentiated in recognition of the value of leadership that possesses the capacity to build teams in either scenario. The primary challenge in either scenario is people. While changing technology, location, strategy, or customers present a high level of difficulty, it is the potential resistance of people who are interwoven into multiple levels of responsibility that produce failure or resounding success when change occurs.

 Change and evolution are the similar in that people experience them in much the same way. For the most part they are not differentiated in practice. With either, things are not going to be what they have been and you know it. Both create questions about the future, stability, and bring a sense of loss. They also equally present new opportunities. You will recognize the reality that once began, change or evolution means you are going to end up in a different place than where you are today. The result may be a difference in position, responsibilities, coworkers, employees, supervisor, or a position in another company. Something will be different. Finally, change and evolution can both be a reaction to internal or external forces. Either can be driven by the proactive desire to ensure growth leveraging competitive opportunities that exist in the market as well as the internal need for improved effectiveness and efficiency.

 There is a point when change and organizational evolution diverge. There are indicators you will observe when this occurs. The first indicator is an unknown outcome. In change, a fixed outcome is defined, but when evolution kicks in you find yourself saying, “I don’t know where this is going.” In addition, there will be no answers to the questions people ask. When a defined outcome is given for a change process, the answers can be found between the current state of the organization and where it is going. You cannot answer questions when you don’t know where or when the evolutionary process will end. Your mental model does not contain the information needed to compute what is happening. You may try to manage the process, but will determine it is emergent in nature as variables come together in ways you cannot predict for results you did not expect.

 Whether undergoing change or addressing the realities of evolution you will require leadership with the capacity to build teams and develop individuals that can adapt. Otherwise you may miss the critical opportunities that exist in both.

The Need for a Management Revolution

Published on: Oct 10, 2011 | Tags: General, Management, Organizations, Productivity, Team Leadership, Organizational Leadership

A revolution sounds like an extreme measure for a company or a leader to consider. You might ask the question, “Do we really need a management revolution?” Revolutions occur when competing or incompatible ideas clash. The better question may be “Are your current practices in management serving you well and will they carry you into the future?” If current management practices work, then you should do more of them. If they are not working, more use of them takes you where you do not want to be, faster. Renaming the old practices with different terms does not change them in reality. It does not fool those you lead either. 

What evidence exists that the revolution must occur? A few of the recurring symptoms you might experience include: 

 Consider how these symptoms impact your company, your people and your customers. You may begin to sense the need for a revolution. Multiple research studies have found the primary reason most employees leave their position is a bad relationship with the boss. What does this say about our approach to management? Do those of us who lead people want to be the reason they leave, or do we lack the knowledge, skills, and tools to develop productive work environments where people can thrive? 

I believe we need a revolution. A revolution that makes companies great places to contribute This can occur as we change the assumptions we have about the use of control and authority.  This revolution develops people and creates teams who experience the freedom to contribute in a manner that the person, team, and company all succeed. The symptoms of a revolutionized organization include: 

  • Collaboration
  • Mutual respect
  • Appreciation of diversity
  • High morale
  • High performance
  • Ownership
  • Accountability
  • Open communication
  • Trust
  • Shared expectations
  • Measureable goal achievement

Would you agree that the alleviation of the symptoms described in the first list above by replacing them with those on the second list will be anything less than a revolution?

The Right Focus

Published on: Aug 31, 2011 | Tags: General, Management, Organizational Leadership, Team Work, Team Leadership

Promoting those who are very good in their technical or professional skills to manager is a common practice that occurs in many companies in most industries. This practice presents a challenge to the new manager because the promotion to manager requires a different skill set than his or her technical or professional expertise.  Some of these new managers receive training and others are expected to figure out how to do the new job on their own. In the end, it is common for them to copy the approach of other managers, even when they don’t like the results of their approach. No matter how they learn, the manager focuses on getting work done. Most managers believe their primary responsibility is to determine the best way to get the job done and then get employees to do it right.

My discussions in many companies reflect a general belief that leadership is the ability to know what needs to be done and tell others how to do it. This makes management and leadership sound confusingly similar in practice. As a result, many times those who like to tell others what to do believe they are great leaders. Alternatively, those who don’t like to tell others what to do avoid leadership opportunities or become someone they are not in order to lead. Are leadership and management so similar that both result in people waiting on someone to tell them what to do?

 Effective leaders lead out of who they are, not who they are not. Leadership is the ability to bring people together to achieve a shared end. That end can be called a mission, vision, objective, goal, project, or outcome. The difference in leadership and management is one of focus. The manager focuses on the work first and then people. The leader focuses on people first and engages them in the responsibility they share. It is confusing when people practice management and call it leadership. At the organizational level leaders create a context where people have both the reason and opportunity to come together to achieve great things. At the work group level leaders develop teams with relationships that support positive interactions and create ownership in a shared responsibility. The result is people who can take action.

For many managers, it is a real challenge to stop thinking about getting the work done and start thinking about how to engage and empower people for results. It requires a different kind of thinking, different practices, and accepting a different set of responsibilities. If you are responsible to lead a group of people to get work done, a basic consideration will help you with this thinking challenge. As you prepare for tomorrow ask yourself, “Am I thinking about how to do the work or how to engage my team?”

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