Most of us are part of a team. Whether it’s the traditional 9-5 office work team, a remote distributed team, or even our family team at home, someone on your team is likely designated as the leader. In this post, I’m going to talk about why the traditional single team leader scenario may not be the best fit for some businesses, and how it may even be hurting your business.
The Outdated Team Leader Structure
We all know (and dislike) this setup don’t we? You have a Boss, Manager, Supervisor, or someone with a title that designates they’re in charge. All ideas and decisions get funneled through one person, and nothing gets done without their approval.
Not only does this structure immediately put everyone on the defensive, but it also makes people feel unequal—often crippling creativity and progress. I have very distinct memories of working in an office and feeling like any idea that my colleagues and I brought forward would be immediately judged (and sometimes ridiculed) by our so-called leader. It didn’t take long before we just stopped voicing our opinions about how to make our products better for our customers, which created a toxic work environment filled with resentment.
This kind of environment was bad for both the customers and the business. It resulted in a higher than necessary employee turnover rate. After all, who wants to perform a job where they don’t feel valued?
A trend that has seen a lot of traction in the past 10 years is the idea of collaborative leadership. This is where the leadership truly considers themselves an active part of the team and values the opinions of everyone.
My personal experience shared above is a true story, but that environment also changed when the company I worked for was acquired by Amazon.com. After the acquisition, one of the first things that the new leadership team did was to have meetings with people mixed in from all departments within the company.
I worked in internet and phone customer service at the time; and my first meeting included the new General Manager, a delivery truck driver, the head of the design department, a recording studio engineer (they make audio books), a server administrator from the IT department, and two people from the packaging line.
Many of these people had never even talked to each other, let alone been in a meeting room together. It was a watershed moment for enhancing employee morale because all of a sudden everyone was on equal ground. We all felt respected, and most importantly, we felt like our concerns and opinions were being heard.
The new collaborative leadership model soon translated into higher productivity, better efficiency, and a happier work environment. If you are dealing with the old leadership structure, or you are in a position of leadership and see yourself “above” your employees or coworkers, then I urge you to consider a change.
Empowering your Team to Be Leaders
Effective leadership can get even better. It’s proven that creating an environment where there is mutual respect among employees and leaders improves morale, but teams can be further improved when they are empowered to make decisions. This includes decisions that could have the potential to make or break your company, or at least have a detrimental effect in some way.
This method requires trust and is not without risk of course. However, if you’re an active member of your team, and you know the people you’ve hired well enough, it’s likely you already trust and respect your team. This trust should help mitigate the risk of someone on your team knowingly taking too big of a risk on the business. After all, why would someone who feels ownership of the company do anything to hurt it?
I’ll give you one more example from my time with the Amazon-acquired company I talked about above. As I said, I was handling customer service for our internet sales. After several feedback and brainstorming sessions, it became clear that our previous leadership team was creating a bottleneck in our team’s productivity by forcing all responses to be “reviewed” before being sent to customers.
Yes, you heard me. Hundreds of emails daily had to be forwarded to a “Manager”, then sent by a second person. Can you even imagine the overhead and uselessness of that!?
Now, to be clear, this manager was not the person that instituted this policy. It had been put in place by their “Supervisor” several years prior. But because no one felt empowered enough to question that policy (or to even bring it up), it was never changed.
It was an easy policy change that immediately increased everyone’s productivity and enhanced the customer experience due to the speed at which they received replies. Most of all, it gave the power of leadership to team members to make their own decisions regarding how to do their job the best. The morale benefits were tremendous.
A little trust, respect, and empowerment go a long way to building a strong team and can have a very positive impact on your company. Build a team of leaders, and you’ll see the benefits almost immediately.
If you’d like to see a team of leaders in action, drop us a line and learn more about how we can help your business deliver high-quality and proven results.