As leaders, we might be tempted to ..ahem.. over-manage our teams, but in fact the greatest success is much more likely to come from teaching them to self-manage and letting their collective creative genius rip!
Here we will talk about the 3 steps to building effective self-managed teams, which are: Letting go of micro-management and the disempowering urge to solve your team's problems for them; Hiring people for the right attitude, or empowering the people you have to rise to the occasion; and Training them how to successfully self-manage in a productive and cohesive way.
Once you have your people self-managing, and they know how they got there, you can continually raise the bar on what they can achieve. They will now be working for you, instead of you working for them.
Packed with the best tips I have learned from various people, this is blueprint for getting started.
Ep#78 I Have to Solve Every Problem https://www.burnouttoleadership.com/1849743/12754182-ep-78-i-have-to-solve-every-problem
Ep#66 Team Leadership https://www.burnouttoleadership.com/1849743/12065378-ep-66-leadership-skills-2-team-leadership
Ep#67 Change How You Lead https://www.burnouttoleadership.com/1849743/12065382-ep-67-leadership-skills-3-3-top-tips-that-will-change-how-you-lead
Ep#81 Performative Productivity https://www.burnouttoleadership.com/1849743/12891737-ep-81-how-performative-productivity-slows-you-down
10x is Easier than 2x, Dan Sullivan https://www.amazon.com/10x-Easier-Than-World-Class-Entrepreneurs-ebook/dp/B0BGK74SR5/
Big Potential, Shawn Achor https://www.amazon.com/Big-Potential-Transforming-Achievement-Well-Being/dp/1524761532
Atomic Habits, James Clear https://www.amazon.com/Atomic-Habits-James-Clear-audiobook/dp/B07J1PMF1H
The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, Timothy R Clark https://www.amazon.com/Stages-Psychological-Safety-Inclusion-Innovation/dp/1523087684
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0:00:09.4 Dex: Hi everyone. My name's Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work.
0:00:23.1 Dex: Hello my friends. This is Dex. Welcome back to the pod for this week's episode on self-managed teams, and this content is of course primarily aimed at those of you who A, have a team, and B, have some agency over their function, which I would also hope you do have if you are running a team. So it's for entrepreneurs, C-Suite consultants, business owners, coaches, and anyone who's got people to manage can benefit from what we're talking about today. And just to illustrate at the beginning, back in the '90s, seems like a long time ago now, doesn't it? I worked for an international software company, as the head of development and at one point I inherited a team of, I think it was just 28 people. There were software engineers in offices across three states 'cause we'd just done multiple takeovers. And one little regional office had only five staff, none of whom were doing very well, or particularly interested in changing what they were doing.
0:01:22.7 Dex: The office politics and distrust were a little bit rank, and of course, that's a management problem, not a staff problem. But I think worse, I'd been helicoptered in from head office to tell them what to do, apply standards of service, and raise profitability, and they also knew I could sack them if I chose to. But instead what I did is, I started by making clear what would be expected of them in terms of self-responsibility, performance, service, attitude, and teamwork. And, I got a bit of the hairy eyeball and the younger ones amongst them were not thrilled. They'd got a bit complacent, but they did start to come around when they began to see, the perks of being actually allowed to do their own jobs.
0:02:12.5 Dex: And kind of pretty early in the piece, what I taught them is how to listen, how to communicate openly and honestly to create a win-win, and also how to have each other's backs like a sports team. And really, this one was quite a novelty. I taught them to be on the same side as the clients, not adversarial. And I kind of ran through this over the course of a day, just the introduction meet, the headlines of it. And we had a couple of days together and then I had to go back to my office and one of the guys who was close to retirement age anyway was very upset and left. But the rest, the younger crew stayed and grew into the change as uncomfortable as they may have found it because I really made it safe for them to serve in a way that was enjoyable and rewarding for them.
0:03:05.9 Dex: No more carrot, less stick. And I didn't place impossible goals or deadlines on them, and nor did I keep them in the dark about company direction and plans. I trusted them. So I'm gonna go through two or three things here, which I really think help empower your teams to move towards their maximum potential. And of course, right up front I'm gonna have to mention micromanagement, because really for anybody who's had experience either micromanaging or being micromanaged, and most of us have had both, haven't we? It's really irritating, it's unproductive, and it disempowers people. Results are usually terrible. Team morale is appalling. The churn rate of staff is usually very high and people are mostly quite uncooperative. And in the end, it doesn't give you the control or the success that you so desperately wanted in the first place.
0:04:05.8 Dex: It's really, it's kind of an ego-driven thing. It assumes that only you as the leader know the right way to do things. And I'm talking to you as a leader now, this may or may not be you. The other thing about micromanaging is it's absolutely hopeless anytime you take your hands off the wheel. So the way I like to think about leadership really is, we've grown up through some sort of profession, probably we're very highly skilled, highly trained, experienced and all that. We know what we're doing, we're very competent. But we think therefore that because we've been trained all of our years in a very particular system of thinking that that's the only way things can be done. I mean, that's what we are taught to think about it. But the way I think about it now is I'm one human. I know almost nothing compared to the mass of humanity and the knowledge spread across humanity. I know, just the most infinitesimally, small amounts.
0:06:10.2 Dex: So, I think about all of the resources and solutions that are available universally. And how much of those can I help myself have access to by trusting and empowering everybody I come into contact with to be able to solve not only their problems but probably mine also in a way that I hadn't anticipated, I couldn't see for myself. So really that's what helped me give up the need to be right because I used to be a very dictatorial manager. Right at the beginning when I began from being promoted from professional to manager, I thought that meant I had to tell people what to do 'cause they didn't know. And for a long time, I kind of clung onto that because my solutions did tend to work for me, particularly [chuckle] But now I've, this attitude of tapping into a much, much bigger pool of resources and intelligence that I could possibly have in my own head has helped me really give up the need to be right, and I've seen it work spectacularly in so many people.
0:06:10.3 Dex: And my favourite manager ever in this, same business that I've just mentioned, was one who always empowered me to find my own solutions and trusted me to get there, if he gave me enough space. And yet he still had my back in front of the customers, particularly those who were, typically multinational corporations. He had my back in front of them and he helped me find enough space to arrive at my own quality solution to a problem. And that's what I would love to be for other people. So that's where my intention is now. And also my intention is to reduce conflict because conflict is never productive. So really if you're a leader and this is not quite happening for you in the way that you'd like, really what? Think about what's stopping you from assuming that people can do what you hired them to do, probably a little bit more. Then all we need to do, if we can start to trust people and start to help them manifest their own powers, then really what we need to do as leaders is we need to manage communications, probably set expectations, vision and culture and we need to address training gaps sometimes where they come up so that we can empower people to come to their own solutions. And if this is difficult for you, I recommend you listen to episode 78 of the podcast about how I have to solve every problem. Maybe that will help you disinvest a little bit from that idea.
0:07:51.8 Dex: So that's number one, micromanagement, maybe making a different choice about that. The second part is really how to then incent people to self-manage and work up to their potential. And for this, I'm relying on, the people I've learned from, including Dan Sullivan, his book, 10X is Easier than 2X, Shawn Achor Big Potential, and James Clear Atomic Habits. They're the three that spring to mind. Jim Collins is always in the mix. Good to great. So I'll put those, all the books I mentioned, I'll put them in the show notes in case you want to investigate. But what I'm gonna do is kind of centralise some of the things that I've learned from these guys. And first of all, really it's always gonna work out better if you hire people with the right attitude. So I hire for intrinsically motivated leaders. And when I say leaders, it begins with self-leadership.
0:08:47.7 Dex: But they're leaders rather than avid followers, never able to make or willing to make a decision. Because if you get people who are intrinsically motivated and intelligent, skills can be taught. Almost all the skills can be taught if they've got a professional kind of outlook. So these people tend to be constant learners, probably endlessly curious and having a big desire to grow and solve problems. They're probably very service oriented and they're probably compelled to produce work at a high quality because it satisfies them, not just the customer. I personally like people with an engineering brain because I came up through engineering, it's the same style as I have, but whatever works, you know.
0:09:32.1 Dex: Almost all of the professions will cultivate a mindset like this in people who have that aptitude and interest in the first place. Of course, if you don't have those people if you've already got a team or you've inherited a team and it doesn't have those people, you're first gonna need to empower the people you do have. And stage one of that is always to create a psychologically safe team. Because for them to take more responsibility and to put more of themselves into the work, it has to be safe, it has to be appealing, and it has to be rewarding. So I'm gonna do an episode directly on psychological safety presently. But you can just read Timothy R. Clark, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety. It's a how-to manual on creating a psychologically safe team. I'll put that in the show notes too.
0:10:26.0 Dex: So let's say you are starting to cultivate or you have built a team of people who are motivated to grow and learn and to serve. Then stage three really is when you have those people and they're willing to take responsibility and you are willing to give them the responsibility at the level that they're at, then really what you need to do is you need to agree on the attitude that you will have as a team, and for me, that means being a premium seller. It's always being a premium seller. You need to be in the top 5% as far as I'm concerned, to be super successful in whatever you do. The top 10%, okay? The top 5% is the real, sweet spot. So I would always aim to be a premium seller and provide premium satisfaction within and outside of the organization.
0:11:18.5 Dex: So that's within your teams and your leadership, but also to your clients and customers and your network. So you need to agree on the attitude that you're gonna universally adopt. You need to get some buy-in on that. You need to communicate your shared values and quality standards accordingly about your products and service, your process, your timeliness, responsibility, standards, communication, etcetera. And I think once you've done that, you've kind of set the tone for the culture that you either have built or will be building within this team and cultivating in this team. Then you really need to get to know your team as individuals. You need to get to know their family life, what they love to do, what motivates them and what holds them back, and what their aspirations are, because without that level of human contact, you're not really trusting them at the next level to get to know you and for you to get to know them. You're not building the strongest bond that is available to you with them. And it's very profound and inspiring loyalty that you are interested in them.
0:12:29.4 Dex: So then you need to initially mentor and train them in whatever the status quo is in your team and your processes and your workload and your tasks and your customer base, whatever that is. But then you need to empower them to self-train where possible. If they can see a gap in their knowledge, it's much better. If they find a way to train themselves in it with your mentoring or guidance, then you take on the responsibility of training them. If they're self-leaders, then they will find ways to train themselves. Of course, now we've reflected on micromanagement. The other thing you need to do is you need to drop your need to be right and to know how to do everything. Because really what you are doing is you're entrusting them to find their best way, not to use your best way, is their best way will work better for them. Once you mentor them through it, then your best way will be anyway.
0:13:25.3 Dex: You need to set out really clear production targets, goals, and time scales, without implying the method they're going to use, right? So they must know what success would look like, but not necessarily the steps they need to take to get there, they can evolve that for themselves. And also, you're gonna need to measure quality over quantity. You need to make time for them to develop the process that works for them and create for them the opportunity to speak to the people they need to speak to, to make that process work correctly. So what you're doing there is you're really making it about process efficiency, not producing a single result than another single result. It's like a franchisable system that's repeatable and dependable. And when you are inviting them to develop new procedures, what I would suggest you focus on is clarity. Why are we doing it? What are, what is the thing we're doing and the goal of that thing, but why are we doing it? What purpose a quality result serves for the recipient, whoever that may be? 'Cause it's all about why. If you don't explain the why, people will be terrible at the what, the what and the how.
0:14:41.8 Dex: Then you need to be clear about the result, the deliverable. What you are doing, again, what you were doing, not how, but complete with timelines or deadlines. You need to think about who the best person is to take responsibility for this process, and then you need to think about the process itself. It needs to become as streamlined and efficient as possible, it needs to be clearly defined, inputs and outputs need to be high quality or have quality standards applied, and it needs to be repeatable. And if it's repeating, it needs to be scheduled or schedulable, it needs to be on a predictable timeline. And I think too, it's very important to focus on communication. Who is this process for? Who is the recipient? Who are the stakeholders? And who else needs to be in the loop or to be consulted or liaised with during the process? It's no use siloing it within your team if other teams need to be involved.
0:15:45.6 Dex: So when you've got a process, obviously you're gonna be measuring by the results that the process produces against whatever your goal was and your timeline was. And within all of that, all of those kinds of parameters of work, if you like, I think the best way to empower people is to teach people to answer their own questions and to rely on them to be able to do that and to learn how to do that, to train themselves. Some people are used to being followers, they won't be leaders until you invite themselves, invite them to solve their own problems, rely on them to do it, and then mentor them over the gap in that, where they're unclear. Find their answer first. And if there's still some gap between that and the desired result, then you mentor them through that.
0:16:40.2 Dex: I think also, although you're delegating really quite effectively in this process and a little bit mentoring at the same time, you do need to communicate regularly with your team, be present, really know where they're at so that you can support them if the need arises. But you're only gonna guide them when it's 100% necessary, when they ask for it, not when you're feeling an urge to correct. So really it's, you are mentoring to be able to shape their own future and rise up as leaders for their own benefit in a way more than for yours. Although you've of course will be the beneficiary and you've all the machinery and you will keep all in the machinery to be able to perform better and better and better.
0:17:30.8 Dex: But I think once you've gone through this initial teaching and learning and development phase where people are accepting responsibility for themselves and their processes and their tasks and their deadlines, once you've got that kind of more or less functioning well and the team are communicating well amongst themselves and outside the team and you've kind of got a fairly high functioning team, if you get to that point, then they know the process of how they got to there, and you can leverage their growth potential even further. So I would do that by goal setting and reward by inviting them to extend in areas of interest for them. To find out what their aspirations are and see if you can give them growth in those directions as well as the directions that you'd like them to take them in. By this time really what they're doing is, they're working for you rather than you working for them because they're not doing it. Okay. So they've taken a great load off you, they've freed up your time already to do the higher level strategic work and also to invest in their leadership development and there, if it's relevant, then their technical development.
0:18:42.1 Dex: So you keep inviting them to up level, you keep challenging them, you find out what drives them, what's floating their boat, and you give them bigger and bigger challenges and more and more responsibility. Because remember, growth is a human need, they're going to need growth. They can't be stagnant once you've got them to that leadership level, they're really going to want to progress. And when they get far enough, obviously in an organization, they're going to be promoted and they're going to be able to train teams themselves. So you can mentor them through creating their own teams of self-managed professionals as well. So that's what I've got for you, it's something I believe very strongly in and it's something that I've seen work like absolute magic on the ground, even in workplaces or teams where there has been very low morale, very high churn rate, very poor productivity, a great deal of animosity.
0:19:39.1 Dex: I think getting it, getting the machine of an organization and teams to run sweetly is a bit of a pet project of mine, [chuckle] I'm kind of conflict-averse, I'd rather people got on and got on with their work. And I have very high standards and I'm very demanding, but I would prefer to be demanding by developing the team out than stamping my foot, particularly these days. Anyway, so that's what I think about self-performing teams and I think as well, if you are in burnout now and you're listening to this and you are running a team and it's not going very well, one of the huge parts of the work that I do with my clients is helping them once they come out of burnout to develop really strong and empowering leadership that accelerates the growth of their people and their own growth. Because I think there's enormous value in empowering as many people around you as possible. There's power and there's enjoyment and there's generally speaking, promotion and success in that too. So that's where I take people to in my coaching program. It's not just about getting out of burnout, it's about being the best possible leader you can be.
0:20:52.6 Dex: And if you are in burnout, by the way, listen to the link at the end. You must come and talk to me about how to recover from burnout quickly and sustainably, get back to your best performance, leadership and most of all enjoyment inside work and out. And if you've enjoyed this episode, please help us reach more people in burnout by rating and reviewing the podcast. I would be very grateful to you for that. And finally, if you are listening to this and you know someone who's heading towards or in burnout, please please send them the link to this podcast. And if you're new and in burnout, I highly recommend you listen to the first five episodes of the podcast. Get started. All righty, thanks for being here. I'm gonna catch you next time.
0:21:38.4 Dex: If you are in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.