The power of empowerment

Moving from doer to facilitator can create amazing results

I remember the first time I heard the phrase, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

To be perfectly honest, it was during one of my performance reviews early in my career. I had a bit of a reputation back in those days. I was so addicted to work, to goals, to results, that I had become what one client called me — a bulldog.

Yes, I was a very confident (well, cocky), results-oriented account executive at an ad agency. I worked very long hours and tended to take on all aspects of a project. This approach served me well for years. My career advanced quickly until finally I was put into an officer level position at a very large company.

All of a sudden, I realized I could not possibly keep up with every decision, every plan, every idea, every relationship, or every project that my department was responsible for. I was working many, many hours, but I was making myself, and everyone around me, miserable.

It was not until then that I realized I had to find another way to operate. In fact, I had to learn to lead. It started with my team. I needed to start trusting everyone on my team. And if there was anyone who was not aligned and on board, I had to be honest with them. Some did not make it, but those who did needed to feel valued and trusted. This could only happen by creating empowered teams.

That meant I had to get out of the way, and move from doer to facilitator. This was hard for someone who had been “doing” for most of his working life. But my team was counting on me to help them by creating targets and removing obstacles so they could achieve more than they thought possible. The transformation for the team was amazing. Results took off and people started loving their jobs.

Today, I spend most of my time trying to be sure that we are all aligned to the same goals, we build plans together and we talk openly about barriers so we can remove them. Our job is to make sure that we align, plan and execute.

While not perfect, this approach to empowering teams has a tremendous effect on our people. Their self-worth can improve as together we achieve results we previously thought were not possible. Our leadership team holds each other accountable, and that is powerful.

To be successful with an empowered team, you must have two key elements. First, you have to take the time to listen to all points of view before charging off with a plan. For those used to the adrenaline of a fast pace, this can be hard, but less efficient is the ill-informed and misaligned plan.

Second, your culture must allow for mistakes. By being open about what is working and what is not, you are able to continue to refine plans together. A “gotcha” culture will only tear away at the trust-building you have with an empowered team.

To better lead, you need to listen, trust and help. And THAT will get you there.

Tom Krouse, president and CEO of Donatos Pizza, has over three decades of restaurant industry experience, countless civic contributions and an award-winning career in marketing and management.