I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of employee engagement.
For starters, it’s a horribly clinical term that doesn’t really capture the essence of the concept. What’s really important, and maybe more difficult to explain, is the idea of having a self-directed team that comes up with ideas and does things that you might not have ever thought about.
Previously, I wrote about a big idea from Mike Michalowicz’s latest book Clockwork. He talks about the importance of Delegating vs. Deciding where Delegating is really all about having engaged employees – this quote really gets to the heart of it:
“What could you accomplish if your staff was not focused on completing tasks, but on delivering outcomes for your company?”
— Mike Michalowicz, “Clockwork”
Delivering outcomes … now that’s a powerful idea. As a business owner or as a leader on any team, the potential performance of your team directly correlates to how much your team is focused on delivering outcomes versus just doing tasks.
It sounds simple enough, delivering outcomes … but the reality is that very few teams actually do this. Here are some ideas that might help you create that kind of team.
3 ideas for creating a team that delivers outcomes
There are lots of moving parts when it comes to creating a high-performance team, but these three are a great place to start.
Remember, motivation is intrinsic
In the long run, you can’t make someone deliver outcomes. You can make them do tasks but they have to want to deliver outcomes. If you’re pushing your team (stick or carrot), then you should know that you’re probably not getting their best performance.
Psychologists call this intrinsic motivation (from within), and it turns out that in a professional environment, there are three intrinsic drivers that really make a difference. Daniel Pink in his book “Drive” does a great job of explaining these. If you want employees to take ownership, you should be thinking about creating an environment that fosters:
- Autonomy // the ability for the team member to control their work and environment
- Mastery // the ability to increase skills that are important to me
- Purpose // being part of a bigger picture that I can be excited about
If you want people on your team to really own their responsibilities, then you should be thinking about how you, as a leader, can deliver on opportunities for autonomy, mastery and purpose.
You’ve got to have a vision
Where do the team’s efforts fit in? If you want your team to deliver outcomes, then they have to not only understand what those outcomes are but also how those outcomes fit into the bigger picture of the organization.
And if you really want to empower and engage your team, you should have them help you figure out what the collective vision is. As the leader, you’re going to bring in the big picture, but there are a lot of ways to deliver outcomes and brainstorming these as a team will help you get the buy-in you need.
You don’t need consensus, but you do need to make sure everyone has a chance to voice their thoughts and participate in the process. As an added bonus, having a clear vision that the team can be excited about covers your need to deliver purpose.
You need a culture of accountability
One of the most impactful leadership ideas I’ve seen is from the book “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. They talk about how to create an overall culture of accountability within the team and one of the keys for doing that is the leader’s attitude and willingness to hold others accountable when they slip.
“It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”
— Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, “Extreme Ownership”
You have to set high standards and expectations as the leader, but more importantly, you have to hold people to those standards. Even if your team is engaged and focused on delivering outcomes, it can be easy to let things slip – and that can quickly lead to a downward spiral of performance. By stepping in and not tolerating lesser performance, you can avoid that spiral. But it takes a consistent approach.
None of these ideas are easy to implement – that’s why high performing teams are so rare. But as a leader, your goal, the outcome you should be delivering, is building a high-performance team. Spending your time creating an environment that encourages autonomy, mastery and purpose, working with the team on a shared, compelling vision and then holding everyone to those high standards is what leadership is all about.
What do you think? Have you been part of a truly high performing team before? Do you feel like the people you work with are delivering outcomes? Or just focusing on doing tasks?