The three-step process to build an empowered team

Learn how you can coach your teams towards their growth.

Steffan Surdek
October 3, 2022
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We talked in an earlier article about building capacity on your team. It is about finding a balance between creating space for team members to learn and giving them the tools they need to develop a new way of being.

Sometimes it means asking questions, but sometimes it also means stepping in and doing things for them or with them. As a leader, it is your job to understand where the team member is at and what they need in the moment.

There are a lot of interpretations of coaching in the workplace. I used to work in a company where some of the coaches would frown upon you if you gave solutions instead of asking questions.

In this article, I want to share with you the approach that I typically use and teach leaders to help them build capacity on their team.

What is the three-step process?

Let's dive into the three-step process. The process itself is simple but you may find the execution a bit tricky at first. I like to call this approach the “three ways of doing”. It is partly inspired by this article from Pamela Weiss.

  1. The first step is doing something for another person.
  2. The second step is doing something with them.
  3. The third step is letting them do it on their own.

We will now explore each of these steps in more detail.

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Step 1: Doing it for them

When you intentionally enter into the three-step process of building capacity in a team member, this step is a little different than doing things for them like you have in the past. It becomes a vital stage in the learning process for you and for them.

You are officially in this step when you want to delegate a task but it needs to get done quickly by someone. That person just happens to be you right now. This makes it so that you do not have time to teach others.

However, doing a task for your team member without following up with either a teaching moment or a coaching moment is less effective. You should get the work done and then spend some time with the person you want to teach to explain what you did and why.

The trap you may fall into that would show you that you skipped this step is delegating a task and then find yourself redoing it. Usually you do it yourself because you are in a rush and either feel they did not do the right thing or did not do it your way.

Step 2: Doing it with them

When there is time, you can execute the work in tandem with the person you are teaching. In this step, you gradually let the other person do more and more of the work.

The idea of this step is to collaborate with the person you are teaching. You are actually producing the work together. If it is something brand new to this person, you may find yourself doing a bit more of the work at first or explaining things more in detail. When the person gains experience doing the work, you will find yourself doing less of the work and slowly start to position yourself more as a mentor or support person.

A large component of this stage is making sure they understand what they are doing. You can do this in many ways. You may be giving them feedback on the first draft of their work. You may also be editing some of it with them to explain why some things need to be different.

You can take the lead creating the work and explaining where it comes from and why it matters. You may find they are more comfortable with some parts than others, and you can let them lead in those parts. The idea is to invest time building capacity with them.

Step 3: Letting them do it

The final step in the process is to let your team member do the work on their own. Getting to this step should be a fairly natural process at this point because they are already doing most of the work at the end of step 2.

At this stage, what you want to do is be there to support the person when they need help from you. Maybe they want you to look over their work for example or receive feedback before a presentation. The idea is that when you reach this step, there should not be that much for you to do.

One of the best ways for you to show them you are there for them in this process is to ask what they need from you as a leader. If the person is an employee that you have a regular one-on-one meeting with, this can be an ongoing topic in your regular meetings together.

Eventually, you will reach a point where the person takes full ownership of the work and there is no longer a need to discuss it unless there is a problem or something changes.

Why should I be doing any of this?

You may be thinking you do not have time to do this. This is most definitely true when you look at it from the perspective of getting instant results. The person you are teaching may not get this right the first time around.

I invite you to look further than that. The time you are investing now is time you will not need to spend doing this work later, if ever again. It may take you a month or maybe even two to transfer this knowledge.

The first success factor will be their willingness to learn and take ownership of it. The second one will be your willingness to teach and explain. The third will be for you to accept they may not do the work exactly the way you would do it.

Conclusion

As a co-creative leader, part of your role is to make your team grow. In the first step, a large component is making sure someone does the work as efficiently as possible. You will do it yourself and then spend some time with the person you want to teach to give them some context.

In the second step, you are willing to take the time to work with the other person to teach them how to do a task. Depending on the complexity of what you are trying to show the other person, some things can be a matter of days, others can be a matter of weeks.

As the person masters the task, you give them full autonomy and only help when they come to ask you for specific help. This is the third step.

There might be a time when they push back and say they are not ready to go further when you know they are. As a leader it is your job to nudge them and help them see they are ready. When you get over the initial awkward feeling of thinking this way, it will get easier!

How can guiding your teams through this process make your leadership more impactful? What powerful change could it create?