Encourage a culture of excellence in your organization through empowered delegation, coaching, and rewarding.
Leonardo da Vinci began his journey to becoming a master painter as an apprentice. In the workshop of the Italian master artist, Andrea del Verrocchio, Da Vinci learned a range of technical skills that many today would not consider part of becoming a painter, including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, plaster casting, mechanics, and carpentry—along with the artistic skills of drawing, sculpting, and painting. The great masters trained their apprentices to be knowledgeable in a variety of topics and skills not just by teaching but by doing. In a master’s workshop, the junior budding artists like Da Vinci were schooled in every step of the process, such as preparing pigments and canvases.
Apprenticed painters didn’t just study the style and works of their masters, they also contributed to the production. In the Renaissance era, when Verrocchio and Da Vinci both lived, masterpieces were often painted collaboratively. Da Vinci’s contributions started with an angel painted by Da Vinci in Verrocchio’s famous Baptism of Christ painting. The angel was a small element painted on the lower-left corner of Verrocchio’s large project, and it was one less thing that Verrocchio had to accomplish himself. He could simply direct his artists and apprentices, correcting their work and administering final touches.
In the context of modern business, effective leaders do a similar thing. They delegate and empower and, at the same time, coach, encourage, and recognize the contributions of others. The work accomplished in most organizations depends on the collaboration of teams. The greatest organizational achievements happen as a result of leaders who encourage excellence.
Delegation and Empowerment
Delegating responsibility and empowering individuals on your team encourages excellence by motivating everyone to personally invest in achieving common goals. How do you talk about goals with your team? Do you simply monitor progress against these goals or do you link them to the overall purpose of the organization?
Motivation is a huge element of delegation and empowerment. You have likely experienced situations when you have delegated responsibility or task to someone who was not motivated to accept it. The results of this are always going to be poor. Some managers feel that employees should just be grateful to have a job and that alone should motivate them to show up to work with passion and commitment. But people do things for their reasons, not your reasons.
Set the table for employee-generated action plans, not directives that come down from above. Those directives may be necessary occasionally, but the most passionately embraced action plans will be the ones that people create themselves or together as a team.
Even if you have realized the best solution or action before meeting with your team, hold your own thoughts, and engage your team in the discussion. People are smart. They will frequently come to the same conclusions you had and may have additional perspectives or solutions that had not occurred to you. You cannot lose by asking your team members their opinion; rather, you will see more ownership of plans and solutions when they are included in influencing the direction. Sharing information with your team and engaging them in action plans sets the groundwork for creating a climate of empowered excellence.
Take a minute to do a mental exercise. Imagine you have been given a special assignment that will require you to be out of the office for the next 3 months. During those 3 months, all of your work still has to get done, but you are not allowed to hire anybody new. Before the special assignment begins, you have 30 days to figure out how you will redistribute your work. Pick up your pen, and for a few seconds think about to whom you would start delegating more responsibility.
Write down one to three things that you would start delegating. The reality is that a leader cannot perpetually do everything that needs to get done. You need others who are empowered to complete critical tasks, and you need backup.
Find areas where you can give people the responsibility and, importantly, the authority to get things done. Have you ever heard from your team that they cannot finish their work because they are waiting for you? Are they waiting for you to look at their work or approve it? That may be a prime example of areas that you should consider letting go of. Empower and, if necessary, train them, coach them, encourage them, and reward them. Otherwise, they will continue without authority and you may be the cog in your own wheel. It can be exciting to be entrusted with a position of responsibility, so if something makes you feel a sense of self-worth, give that self-worth to others on your team.
What would you have to give up to get a totally inspired, totally engaged workforce? Few leaders think about delegation in this way because they have a difficult time giving up control to gain the benefits of delegation and empowerment. Leaders want their teams to be autonomous, empowered, and excellent; yet, teams are rarely given the space to be able to do so.
Delegating responsibility without giving up control and assigning authority will only result in undermining that which you are trying to achieve. Focus on the outcomes of the goal and allow your employees to figure out how they will accomplish it. And then make sure you are following up and helping them with obstacles that may occur. You must be willing and able to give up control to gain the benefits.
When you have an empowered workforce, and everybody is genuinely engaged and giving 100% of his or her capacity, you will be able to pursue more strategic organizational priorities. You may also be able to decrease the amount of time you spend at the office each week and instead begin to focus on building or extending your professional network.
Coaching & Encouraging
Excellence is encouraged most effectively, and perhaps most rewardingly when a leader takes the role of the coach. This is what leadership is all about. You are preparing the next generation of great leaders, and this is perhaps the most important role you play in your organization. Your ability to coach and encourage excellence in your team has a multiplier effect on the success of your organization. When you are coaching, you are developing. You are helping others become better contributors, leaders, better thinkers, and better decision-makers.
Coaching is a time when you role model for your team members. Keep in mind that you do not want to create a perfect model persona that seems so flawless that your employee sees your level of success as unattainable. Success is never a straight line, so talk about your failures and the lessons that you learned from those failures as well as your successes.
Make sure your team members understand that it is okay to make mistakes as long as they take responsibility for those mistakes and learn from them. One suggestion is to keep a page of the 10 worst mistakes you have made and what you have learned from them. Include at least one mistake that is fairly recent so as not to imply that all of your mistakes were a long time ago and that you are now perfect. If you can show that you can make a mistake, bounce back from it, and learn from that experience, they will be more comfortable in the knowledge that they can do the same. Mistakes engender energy and wisdom.
Rewards & Recognition
When individuals and teams work above and beyond expectations to achieve great results, celebration and recognition are how great leaders encourage continued commitment to the organization’s goals and mission. When your team can step up and make things happen, it is important to recognize the work as a team to encourage further collaboration. Celebration and recognition are how excellence is encouraged over time and how it stays strong even in times of high production volume and stress.
What gets rewarded gets repeated. Yet managers still often overlook the positive impact of rewarding and recognizing excellence. Studies have shown that only 60 percent of adults in the workplace will agree that personal recognition is important to them and that it works well to help keep them motivated. That means that 40 percent will say they do not really need recognition. They believe they are self-motivated enough to work well without recognition. And yet, 96 percent of the people in that same group responded that, when they receive personal recognition, it definitely inspires and motivates them to do more work.5 The conclusion is that, although they may not need recognition, recognition does inspire people to do more and better work.
Employees want to feel appreciated. They want to feel valued. It instills a sense of commitment. Recognizing specific actions is one of the keys to effective recognition.
Do a small amount of homework to gather specifics to recognize excellence with impact. Find out what employees did to deserve recognition, how they did it, why they did it, and for whom they did it. Perhaps most importantly, you need to find out how the organization benefited from what they did. It may take a grand total of about 5 minutes to gather the information you need to recognize with lasting impact.
Next, you will need to decide how you will use the information to recognize excellence. Recognition is very powerful when you recognize people publicly. A great way to do this is while opening a team meeting. Never again should any manager or leader begin an employee meeting in any other way than with recognition! Recognition can also be a very powerful tool for team building. You do not need to spend a lot of money to accomplish this. A simple, yet effective recognition party can be hosted in your office for very little money.
Recognition is a simple, effective way to improve morale and lower turnover. With lower turnover and higher morale, productivity and engagement increase. Good behaviors get duplicated and repeated as employees are recognized by managers. If you can make the small effort to figure out who deserves recognition and why, and then recognize those individuals, others who experience the impact and benefit of it will begin to do the same thing. Perhaps the most important part of recognition is to start doing it right now.
Learn how to structure and communicate a culture of excellence by reading The Leadership Habit. Click Here
Leadership Core Competency: Encourages a Culture of Excellence
Empowers and motivates team members to achieve and creates a feeling of personal investment and desire to excel. Appropriately recognizes the contributions of individuals and teams. Nurtures the development of others through effective coaching and mentoring.
- Delegation and Empowerment: Establishes clear performance goals that encourage others to personally connect to their job
- Coaching and Encouraging: Develops others by providing clear feedback on performance and offering positive coaching advice and opportunities to develop skills
- Rewards and Recognition: Provides specific, meaningful, and timely recognition to individuals and teams for their results
Encourage a Culture of Excellence Toolkit
Set up standard one-on-one sessions with each of your employees. Ensure that you do not cancel or move these sessions and communicate your preparation expectations. Here is a recommended process for your one-on-one sessions:
- A general check-in of how they are doing overall
- Actions and progress from the prior meeting
- Key accomplishments
- Feedback: First ask for their feedback on how they feel about their progress, what they have learned, and what they would improve to date.
- Then, provide your feedback and observations with specifics of what they did well and what they need to improve.
- Ask, “What do I need to know about?” Here, you are looking for key things that have occurred or may be occurring in the near future.
- Ask, “What help do you need from me?”
- Decide on action items from the current meeting.