Coaching Tip for a CEO with an Empowered Team

I just had a coaching call with one of my CEOs, K__, and wanted to share this — it’s relevant to all of us.

I recently read that “The Currency of Leadership is Attention” and it rang true — you get what you inspect, you get what you measure, etc.

K__ was getting some doubts and concerns from his newly formed and empowered teams, to the effect that senior leadership was detached or had checked out of the process. K__ doesn’t want to steer them, he doesn’t want them handing the work back to him, and yet he does want to communicate — in both words and actions — that their team is doing work that matters to the whole company.

How to counter the fear that management is detached, without reasserting control?

Here’s the context — nobody at G__ has done this sort of empowered team work before. There’s no model to follow. Even with the extremely clear ground rules K__ provided up front, there’s still going to be some uncertainty — what do we really have the power to do? How can we be sure our team isn’t going off on a tangent, doomed to be yanked back once management finally reconnects, losing days or weeks of work? Is management even serious about this?

This work is not just new for the team — it’s new for K__ and the other senior leaders.

My advice at the time was to respond to emails in supportive ways, looking for the positive intention and praising it. One team member has had to drop off, due to a press of client work. Since the teams set a ground rule of “Reliability” (very much in tune with our Integrity conversation of last session) K__ saw this as a team member realizing he couldn’t keep a commitment, and letting everyone know early.

Also, K__ might make a point of dropping in briefly on the team meetings about 5-10 minutes after they start — to signal that these are not his meetings — and observe and listen. And, he might have 1:1 meetings with the team leaders to check in.

On reflection, the other thing K__ might do is collect the concerns as they come in, and meet with the teams for a quick 15-minute problem solving session (perhaps as part of a scheduled team meeting), asking them “Here are some concerns you’ve voiced — what are some others? What are some ways to address these concerns while keeping the teams empowered? What are your requests of management? How can management support you even better?”

As long as K__ can create the solutions WITH them not FOR them, I think they’ll be on track.

Tagged with: , , , ,