Leadership Today
Building Trust

As mentioned last time, a key ingredient to achieve successful empowerment is trust.

We can teach principles related to trust, but that does not have much to do with building trust.
Trust is not a skill that can be acquired intellectually. You cannot gather all of your team members into a classroom one day, and say, “Folks, today we are going to learn to trust each other.” It simply does not work that way.
How does Trust develop? Trust develops over time, based on our experience with each other. It takes time, but this important topic should not be left to chance. There is too much at stake to not pro-actively try to create team relationships that are strong – relationships that are based on trust. Remember, if trust is absent, the result will likely not be neutral; the result will probably be negative.
Covey's "emotional bank account" metaphor.
Stephen Covey, in his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, refers to an emotional bank account that we all have with each other. Our actions toward each other either make deposits, or withdrawals, to and from these accounts. Covey states beautifully that if we make deposits, through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping commitments, trust levels increase. The opposite affect occurs if we are not courteous, if we are disrespectful, dishonest, etc. When this is how we treat people, these emotional withdrawals reduce or eliminate levels of trust. 
Leaders and team members can be taught principles such as Covey’s metaphor, but it still does not necessarily facilitate building trust. Training efforts have a better chance of creating movement toward increased trust if they include strong elements of experiential learning that can bring the principle of trust to life for groups.
Techniques for building trust.
The best facilitation process for building trust, through demonstration of trustworthiness, is by using experiential facilitation and learning processes.
With experiential learning processes, people get to experience firsthand the impact of trust. They experience that trust is essential to successfully accomplishing the training activities. The impact and importance is usually quite vivid. The experience in the activity then provides a safe and comfortable platform for discussing the issues related to trust in the work place. The focus is on what just occurred in the activity, but the lessons stick, as they pertain to the group’s real mission.
Experiential learning processes can accelerate the development of trust. It is the most powerful way to pro-actively educate and stimulate the building of trust within a team.
These important lessons can be woven into the processing and discussion that accompanies experiential exercises. 
Facilitators can often weave powerful learning activities into sessions that are designed to teach other topics to their group. This provokes important thought, consideration, and reinforcement about individual and group actions within the context of the additional topics, such as communication, and how they are critical to building trust.
High levels of trust within any group are a clear advantage. There is a lot to be gained by investing in facilitation processes to help a group understand and build their levels of trust. It is the key to effective relationships, relationships that will result in effective teamwork toward the objectives of the organization.
Still yet, leaders must understand that nothing is more important in building trust that the day-to-day actions and work methods that speak tons to employees and teams about what really can or cannot be trusted at work.
Sometimes specific efforts must be facilitated to help groups overcome difficulties and pain from their past experiences, and to mend and/or create solid working relationships.   This can be true following periods of downsizing and restructuring that perhaps were not smooth or accompanied with effective communication and engagement.
Trust is a powerful enabler for an organization. On-going and enduring trust can be essential to:
  • Empower people effectively
  • Enhance organizational performance through the implementation of changes and improvements
  • Breakdown silos between organizational groups that may have been holding back progress
  • Improve the total effort toward accomplishing the business mission, rather that sub-optimizing with improvements at the individual team level
Many thanks,

Trust and empowerment
5/5/2010 7:28:24 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment

empowerment, trust

The series we just completed dealt with keys to successful empowerment.

That topic is about relationships and the distribution of power and authority within those working relationships. Today we begin a brief series on a key ingredient to achieve successful empowerment – trust.
Levels of empowerment can be gauged by observing the interactions among working relationships as well as the interactions with customers and others external to the organization:

·         Are people empowered to use their expertise to help customers (external and internal)?
·         Is the group empowered to create ideas and opportunities?
·         Are the people and groups in the organization empowered to take the actions necessary to succeed?
As we previously defined it, empowerment means vesting people with the responsibility for action, action that will help serve the enterprise, and make the business successful. The process of increasing empowerment, whether to an individual or a team, occurs over time. It is definitely not an instantaneous change. The change involves two parties, the person or team receiving increased empowerment and responsibility, and the party giving up some of their responsibility or authority. 
At the heart of this giving and receiving of empowerment is trust.
It requires trust on the part on the one doing the empowering, and trustworthiness on the part of those receiving the increase in scope of work and responsibility. It requires both time and experience for this trust to evolve.
The scope and freedom in each of these areas of interaction may be increased in small ways at first. When these are handled successfully, an increasing level of action and authority may be enabled. 
It is important for both parties to understand the dynamics of this, so that they will know what is at stake in their activities as empowerment is increased. Knowledge of this will accelerate the process, because everyone will be expecting an outcome that moves the process forward. 
The result will be increasing levels of trust and demonstrated trustworthiness, which in turn enables increased levels of empowerment. Success leads to both trust and confidence as people grow in their roles.
Next time we will examine the process of building trust.
Warm regards,



Empowerment , Planning and Steps for Success
4/26/2010 9:57:09 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment


Thanks for your return with us to this powerful topic. Our interest in writing this brief series on empowerment has been to help you understand how to get started and achieve success with an empowerment strategy.

As mentioned last time, many have tried empowerment, but not so many have succeeded. Here we will provide you with a sketch of key parts of preparation for successful empowerment. These are offered as a result of our actual experiences, first as corporate leaders/managers, and then second as consultants who have supported many organizations on their empowerment journeys.
Training is essential for both leaders and your people/teams – those doing the empowering and those receiving empowerment.
Recall that empowerment is a transition of power (authority). It is a relationship with a minimum of two parties – those releasing power and those assuming power. Both need adequate preparation and guidance. Do not leave this to chance or you open the door to misunderstanding and problems, even resentments, about the process of empowerment you are trying to implement.
Leaders          Of the two parties, leadership can be the more difficult area of preparation, especially front line leadership. It can be viewed as a loss, both of position and control. Supervisors and managers can even perceive empowerment as a threat to their future unless you prepare them with training and vision regarding the expected future.
Their training should illuminate several important areas:

- The process steps of empowerment

- What is in it for them, the supervisors and managers

- Leadership flexibility that will be required in the journey

- Training they must provide to their people and teams

People and Teams     This typically is a very positive area of training, as there will exist a natural interest and desire to learn and advance in authority. Your people and teams should desire this if it is well presented in a context that illuminates the vital future role and impact of empowerment for them and the organization. 
Note – there can be resistance in certain circumstances:
Resistance can be rallied by outside influences such as negative union pressures. (If there is a history of healthy management-union relations, then the union can be a positive part of the implementation. If the history is not so positive, then special steps of relationship building with the union may be essential.)
Company past practice of implementation exercises (past programming that has been perceived as “flavors of the month” – processes implemented without follow through and support for success. If your organization is perceived in this light, special steps of preparation may be required to illuminate this plan for empowerment as a process that will be supported and accompanied with follow up and follow through.
Focus on the mission of the business
All of the preparation and training should contain a clear connection with the business mission so that everyone, both managers and employees/teams see the clear business purpose behind the move to empowerment. You want it to be clear that you are not empowering just to be changing for the sake of change. You are empowering to improve and increase business outcomes of the enterprise. Help everyone see the connection between the health of the business and their individual well being.
Build in accountability
Our last post focused on the empowerment trap of “entitlement.” The best strategy to avoid this serious trap is to build in accountability for results. Without improvement in businessresults, there is no increase in empowerment. You need to do this as you set expectations throughout the steps of your empowerment implementation process, starting with the initial training.
You must prepare, both leaders and teams, for the ebb and flow of business that will dictate changing dynamics within the context of an empowered organization. You must address up front that things change from time to time that can require more or less levels of management attention. If this is fully understood up front, you will avoid later negative perceptions that your empowerment program has been yet another management “program of the month.” Handled correctly, your teams and people will be proactively looking for additional management involvement and support during the trying times. Here are some examples:
- Business changes – new product and service launches require increased support and activity from the ranks of management
- Marketplace changes – leaders have important perspectives and experience form more global views of the marketplace and must be engaged as the dynamics with customers change
- System changes – from time to time new business systems & processes may be implemented. Your people and teams should recognize that increased levels of management direction are essential to successful implementations of these changes.
- Economy ups & downs – performance by your people and teams can be influenced heavily at times b factors outside of the control of the teams. Management connection becomes critical during these times.
The point of these examples is this; empowerment is not a fixed process. It needs to be dynamic and responsive to the challenges and demands of the marketplace in which you compete. Prepare both your leaders and teams for this reality and you will be setting the stage for a powerful and successful empowerment experience. The focus will be where it should be – the mission success of the business.
Feel free to share your stories of empowerment with us. You may write to me directly at LMeeker@atctraining.com 

Many thanks for your interest,
& best wishes for your empowerment journey,



Empower? Yes, but Avoid Creating Entitlement
4/19/2010 1:02:44 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment


Our company has a long history of teaching principles of empowerment. We have lived these concepts, and much of what we facilitate and teach is based on our own experiences as leaders in companies such as Texas Instruments.

Many have tried empowerment. Not so many have succeeded. One of the serious traps that exists on the Empowerment Journey is “entitlement.”
Entitlement and its negative consequences are not just a function of unprepared attempts at empowerment. It can result from many miss-steps of management within organizations.
So, what is entitlement?
I will reference from an excellent book by Dr. Judith Bardwick, Danger in the Comfort Zone.
“Entitlement is the name I have given to an attitude, a way of looking at life. Those who have this attitude believe that they do not have to earn what they get. They come to believe that they get something because they are owed it, because they’re entitled to it. They get what they want because of who they are, not because of what they do.”
Dr. Bardwick focuses a lot on American corporations: people not really contributing, but still expecting to get their regular raise, their scheduled promotion. This attitude is very dangerous.
  • It lowers productivity
  • It crushes self esteem
  • It destroys motivation
Entitlement doesn’t just exist in the ranks of corporate America. With only a few moments of reflection you can list many settings. A couple of examples include:
  • Executive bonuses expected regardless of company performance
  • Government employees who maintain that they are job-secure, regardless of contribution
  • Settings where tenure and seniority rule reward & promotion rather than performance
  • Senior employees on the “retirement glide,” expecting the regular paycheck without much effort as they approach retirement
The case we are referring to, indeed the trap, is the entitlement that can exist among those that have been involved in careless efforts of empowerment. Entitlement in this instance is a sense of having authority for decisions and actions but no accountability for the results. This is a formula for disaster.
ATC empowerment processes head this off with the initial training for both leaders and employees/teams. In the next post, we will talk about some of the important steps that prevent this condition, so that you can truly reap the benefits of successful empowerment.

Many thanks,


Empowerment - Practice and Theory
3/23/2010 10:34:53 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment


Empowerment is a topic that attracts attention because of its potential to allow organizations to streamline and yet still improve results and profit.  ATC's team of facilitators have lived the challenges of implementing empowerment in organizations such as Texas Instruments, and we apply the theory that we have developed through practices that achieve results and also that avoid the potential pitfalls.  This will be the first of a couple of posts on this important and powerful topic of empowerment.

The practice of empowerment is attempted in the context of many applications: 

  • Employee empowerment – transitioning more empowerment to employees has occurred as organizations have flattened and attempted to become more lean
  • Team empowerment – self managed teams require a level of empowerment if they are to grow to truly be self managed teams.
  • Self empowerment – there is an internal desire for many people to have more control in their lives and work. Developing self in order to be ready for empowerment and responsibility is worthy.  Personal empowerment can be a great result.
  • Women empowerment – the authority of women in leadership has definitely grown. Such worthy progress by a segment of professionals and workers is accompanied with greater empowerment.
Some of these examples experience natural emergence and growth over time. Others are initiated intentionally and pressured to increase. It is in these areas where empowerment is forced where we often see problems. Absence of attention to some basics of empowerment theory can even result in disastrous outcomes.
ATC professionals have developed and refined approaches to empowerment over the years. We place careful attention on the details and pitfalls of empowerment processes in order to enable organizations to succeed and obtain their desired results.
The picture depicts a transfer of power via gears. In organizations, empowerment is a transition of power among members, usually from leaders to employees and teams.
Definition of empowerment – we prefer to define empowerment as follows:
Empowerment is a process to give a person (or team) more authority for making the decisions critical to success in their work. 
Empowerment is a continuum, allowing different levels of empowerment based on the readiness of the individuals and leaders involved, in combination with surrounding business conditions.
In the next few days we will release a special ATC webpage dedicated to the practice and theory of empowerment.  Please check back for that at our main website.
Many thanks,


Renewed Focus on Teams
12/7/2009 12:22:15 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

empowerment, Leadership, teams

We want to share an interesting observation with you – the most searched part of our website in the past few months is on the topic of team development. In addition, the number of hits has increased dramatically in the past two months.

What might this suggest? Well, one thought is that many organizations are feeling a special area of pain following recent restructurings and staff reductions. Many of these same companies have leaders that recognize that strong teams can be an essential ingredient to pull through tough times and move on towards a healthy recovery.
Existing team structures are often upset significantly through the processes of re-organization, and new or increased investment in team development can be very useful to re-build damaged team structures.
It will be interesting to see how this materializes in the coming months as we see more companies begin to reinvest in people and organizational development. We will provide you with updates through this blog.
In some cases, re-establishing high levels of empowerment will be critical because of the reductions among leadership teams.
There is one powerful and critical suggestion that we would emphasize – equip your leaders and teams with solid knowledge about the processes of empowerment.
Avoid mistakes that were often made in the past. Many managers rushed toward empowerment, recognizing the potential that exists in a highly empowered team environment. Unfortunately, they did not understand the process, and the result was “entitlement” rather than empowerment, which is a very negative and costly organizational illness.
Push to move your leaders and teams along the “empowerment journey,” but take the time and make the investment to do it correctly.

Warm regards, 

President, Advanced Team Concepts




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