Episode summary

Ever been called a micromanager? Or been told you’re too hands off?

Startup founders Vic and Maggie learned the hard way to strike the balance — and they revealed to us their secret to empowering a team and unlocking their superhuman strength to tackle new, daunting challenges. What frameworks helped them foster a culture of empowerment that enabled them to build the world’s most successful pet camera company, Furbo? Press play to find out.

Why it matters

You’ve probably experienced how motivation- and morale-sapping it is to work on menial, routine tasks that are completely unchallenging – or complex projects that are far too challenging without support. You certainly don’t want your team members feeling either. Being deliberate about empowering your direct reports is central to not just their motivation and morale, but also their ability to grow and contribute more.

Putting it into action

  1. Set a clear vision
    The first step to empowerment is to make sure you have set a clear vision and agreed on clear objectives with your direct report. If you want to empower them and let them run, they need to know where they are heading.

    How? Use a clear goal-setting framework. In this episode, Vic and Maggie mention the OKRs (Objective & Key Results) framework, popularized by Silicon Valley companies like Google.

    Try this: If you haven’t done so already, sit down with your direct reports to set their individual objectives using a clear framework. Make it clear it’s their responsibility to achieve these targets, and be sure to touch base with them regularly to see how they’re progressing.

    Learn more: https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/set-goals-with-okrs/steps/introduction/

  2. Design stretch challenges
    People often deliver their best work – and are most energized – when they feel challenged. They should feel a little nervous, but also be sufficiently set up for success through support and coaching.

    With the right challenge, they’ll feel like they achieved the impossible and be more ready than ever for the next big project!

    How? Craft challenges that push your direct reports out of their comfort zones. Then, coach them along the way when they need it. In Vic’s words “fight the war together,” and you can help them find that superhuman strength in them to achieve the impossible.

    Try this: Identify one direct report who you consider an “emerging star” – someone with a lot of potential. Think about what skills and experiences they need to take things to the next level, and then try to find a project or task that will challenge them on those fronts. Create checkpoints and communicate with them along the way so that you can guide them when needed while still giving them the space to learn and figure things out on their own. (More on this to come in episode 4!)

  3. Foster the right culture
    Empowering an individual can only go so far if the overall organization’s culture and practices aren’t aligned.

    Vic and Maggie not only defined open-mindedness and exploration as core values for their company, they actively embedded habits and frameworks that reflected those values. Their “1-2-3 strategy,” for example, encourages teams to explore their options before coming to a decision as a group.

    How? Consider what culture you want to foster. What are the specific traits? Then think about what specific day-to-day frameworks you can implement to bring it about.

    Try this: Start with something granular, rather than trying to tackle cultural change as a whole. Think, for example, of how a typical meeting in your team is run. How is the agenda set and communicated? What’s the typical breakdown of speaking time among participants? How are decisions made? Then think about one change you can make that would better reflect the kind of team culture you’d like to foster.

Other resources mentioned in this episode

Share your insights & experiences

What are some moments you’ve felt empowered or disempowered? How do you actively try to shape that for your team? What challenges do you face?

We‘d love to hear from you at [email protected]!

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