Empowerment – “please, go ahead, take a chance, make your call”

I have been thinking a lot about trust in the organisational space and how to nurture such characteristic in a team. But, as I approach the landmark of 40 (it will be tomorrow by all means) my thoughts took me to a different path.

When I was a kid, I tried fiercely not to fail in all endeavours I took. Actually, that made me be more scared of the simple thought about trying.

Later in life, I learned through some coaching sessions that I only tried to look for approval from my parents. It was really silly, my parents were very young and they were very busy raising two kids while fighting in their own jobs. It was silly because they motivated me to experiment several different sports, playing music, reading different book subjects, and even getting into the volunteer firefighters brigade of my home town (I was 14).

While I was reading and thinking heavily on the subject, I found that some simple words and actions would make a giant difference.

I know, you might be thinking, “this guy is taking us to the Servant Leader philosophy…..again!

Hell yeah, it was my first approach to that subject that made me see the World with different eyes. Nevertheless, it took me several years to really open them.

This week I had a lunch with my previous team. Each time one of them chooses to switch jobs or take new responsibilities, he will call for a “team” lunch so we may celebrate together. More then a bunch of dudes, they started real friendships between them.

That sole feeling fills my heart with joy.

But, what I want to retell from that lunch was the fact that one of them is going to a new, more demanding, technical challenge and he wanted “to tell me that, on my face“. I was really happy for him, but he had something on his mind…and that puzzled me.

Back in the 90s, when I was jumping to University, I saw a movie called “Dangerous Minds“. In this flick I caught a message that, on that time, I thought it was cool but not the depth of coolness I think today.

LouAnne Johnson, an actual teacher, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer, gave their students an A grade in the day #1 of school. If you think about it, many kids see those grades as something way far to reach. So, LouAnne made her entire class to start with that grade. Instead of looking as something really difficult to achieve, they had it already.

Now, stop and give it a moment of thought.

Would it be more difficult to work to achieve an A grade, or to keep an A grade?

Actually, it would be the same effort. LouAnne only changed the perception of it.

I really believe in this perception switch. Instead of waiting to see if a team member has what it’s needed to perform some odd duty, I try to push them to take that leap, to get out of their safe zone.

Back to that lunch…I went home and give some thought about the situation. I tried to see where or when I did not give this guy a chance? Where or when did I fail to this guy?

Actually I didn’t. The opportunity to perform out of his comfort zone was there, like it was for every element of the team. That path is there to one to grasp. But I can not walk their path for them.

I will keep to have this approach of “giving an A grade” to each element of my team. To give them a safe and trust worthy environment. To present them with the opportunity, even if it is a junior developer, to grab some tough user-story, some wicked feature and to develop it from “head to toe”.

“What if they fail?”

They will only fail if the team is not a team but just a bunch of rogue developers.

To me, a team will win and lose as a team.  A team will be strong as the weakest element.

I rather want to let the weakest ones take a chance to learn and grow…to level up the strength of the team.

If you give them the chance, expect them to fail.

If you show them the path, expect them to not walk that path.

If you think it is time for them to adventure away from their comfort zone, expect them to think otherwise.

Remember, you can only provide guidance and nurture the right environment.

But please, do it before they look for your approval. Show them that you really care, as a professional and as a person.

Ahhh….but I’m really happy for that guy, he is walking the path, at his own time !!

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