Book Review – Empower Your Team to Thrive by Alison & David Price

empowerEmpower Your Team To Thrive is one of those books that you just pick up to see whether you can gain any value from it, then you open it and discover that it has a world full of insights. David and Alison Price have written a book for those who manage teams that is not full of management jargon, but rather presents practical information that is easy to understand and can be readily applied. The is written as an A-Z guide with each letter of the alphabet representing a management insight that team leaders and managers can use to improve their team leadership effectiveness.

While the book has 26 chapters because of its A-Z nature, it is not a hefty book. Each chapter can be read in a couple of minutes. Below I have written very short reviews of each chapter.

A: Assessment

This chapter provides a self-assessment tool for managers through 25 questions which you can use to assess your manager and then yourself. The 25 questions are based on the remainder 25 chapters (B-Z) in the book, so it allows you to identify an area of development through the assessment and possibly choose which chapter to read to develop the areas identified.

B: Basics

This is a very important area that is easy for managers to take for granted, and that’s ensuring their team members have the basic things to do their work, especially new employees. These could be things as simple as having a good induction, working computer, desk to sit at, working toilets, adequate breaks and so on. While these things don’t necessarily motivate people to put in discretionary effort, when they are lacking staff can become demotivated.

C: Communication

This is one of my favourite chapters in the book. It starts with a ‘spot the difference’ exercise between poor and good communication scenarios and then summarises qualities of effective communication using the following acronym:

  • C – Clarity
  • O – Open
  • M – Make time
  • M – Maintain professionalism
  • U – Updated
  • N – Not all talk
  • I – Informed
  • C – Control
  • A – Active interest
  • T – Timely
  • E – Expectations

The acronym spells COMMUNICATE.

D – Distributing work

This chapter explains actions managers can take to ensure work is distributed among the team in a fair and efficient way.

E – Empowerment

This chapter is about creating an empowering environment for employees to work. An environment that motivates them to do their best work. As in previous chapters, various examples are used to explain how best to empower employees, but my favourite part of this chapter is the acronym ‘EMPOWER’ which is used to summarise actions that managers can take to create an empowering environment. It’s clear that Alison and David love their acronyms. Here it is:

  • E – Expectations: set clear expectations.
  • M – My responsibility: set clear boundaries to ensure team members know their responsibilities.
  • P – Pareto: look for 20% of decisions that make 80% difference and give people freedom with the other 80%
  • O – Open and approachable: Make yourself accessible for people who need support.
  • W – What (not how): People perform best when you tell them what to do and not how to do it.
  • E – Encourage knowledge-sharing: The more informed people are the better decisions they make.
  • R – Risk-assess: Teach people to risk-assess their decisions.

F: Feedback

This is an obvious one for managers and the information here shows us how to give feedback effectively whether it’s negative or positive.

G: Goal-setting

Goal or objective setting is an important aspect of a manager’s job because it helps to clarify what team members should be achieving as part of their work. Objectives are usually set as part of the appraisal process and this chapter asks us to think about how effective that process is especially if we are involved in it. But it then goes on to give us seven steps to make objective setting more effective. Summarily the seven steps are:

  1. Find out what reward an individual is incentivized to achieve.
  2. Clarify what needs to be achieved to receive this reward.
  3. Work out which areas of the job role should have objectives set against them.
  4. Agree performance objectives against the important areas of the role.
  5. Ensure that the employee is given examples of what performance would be rated as failing to meet the objective and exceeding expectations.
  6. Regular monitoring of performance against the objectives and providing ongoing support to maximize the employee’s ability to meet the objectives.
  7. Carry out a formal appraisal and provide the reward as agreed if achieved.

H: Hiring

The chapter focuses on running an appropriate recruitment process to hire the right kind of staff.

I: Induction

Induction is a very important aspect of getting staff onboard and when it doesn’t go well staff can leave within the induction period. This chapter outlines what we can do to ensure new staff get a good induction and there is an acronym (which I love) to summarise the actions. Here it is:

  • I: Importance of job – let the employee know how their job is connected to the organisation’s success.
  • N: Necessary tools and resources – provide employee with the necessary tools and resources to do their job.
  • D: Duties – ensure the employee knows what their job role is and how success will be appraised.
  • U: Understand how to complete the work – Ensure the employee knows how to do the work which may require extra training and development.
  • C: Communicate the organization’s vision and strategy – Ensure the employee knows the purpose of the organization and the strategy that is being used to achieve this.
  • T: Team – explain the structure of the organization and the purpose of each of the major division, giving more detail about your own team/division.
  • I: Introductions – Introduce the employee to other members of the team and key contacts.
  • O: Organizational policies and procedures – Inform employees of the organization’s policies and procedures.
  • N: Now – give them work to do as early as possible in their role.

J: Justice

In this chapter managing all team members in a fair and just way is explained.

K: Kindness

Treating employees kindly is part of a manager’s job, this chapter emphasises the importance of that and offers some advice on how to do it.

L: Life-work balance

This chapter that focuses on work-life balance, it discusses stress and its impact on us and then discusses some tips on how to maximize work-life balance.

M: Managing Change

Everyone managing a team will have to manage change at some point at a certain level. Here you will be introduced to why we resist change; five things managers can do to make change less painful and how managers can make change sustainable.

N: Not coping

This chapter carries on from the chapter on work-life balance by discussing work-related stress in more detail. It identifies the six things that lead to stress according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which are, work demands, negative work relationships, lack of control over work, not understanding one’s role, insufficient support and change. An interesting aspect of this chapter is a questionnaire which has been provided to assess work-related stress. The questionnaire can be completed by team members to identify any areas of stress which the managers can then act on.

O: Operational problems

Probably the biggest issue that managers will have to deal with are operational problems related to staff that disrupt the smooth running of things. The aim of this chapter is to provide insights into how managers can deal with issues such as these. To be able to deal with such situations, several areas are discussed which include:

  • Understanding one’s boundaries of responsibility.
  • Managing upwards
  • Managing downwards
  • Employee involvement

P: Poor performance

Poor performance must be dealt with by managers promptly, but it’s not always easy to deal with. Information in this chapter provides us with ways to handle situations of poor performance, how to identify what is causing poor performance and what to do if things still don’t improve.

Q: Quarrels

How do you recognise workplace conflict? How do you resolve the conflict? Why is it important to plan when you want to resolve a conflict? How do you negotiate to resolve conflict? What do you do when agreement cannot be reached by people in conflict? These questions are answered in this chapter.

R: Respect

The summary of this chapter is that you should not disrespect your team members or work colleagues if you are a manager. Don’t make degrading jokes about people, don’t use ‘put down’ statements and don’t bully people. Act professionally and with respect always.

S: Strengths

In this chapter you will read about the importance of playing to your strengths and some ways to help you identify your strengths. It also covers how you can help team members to discover their own strengths too.

T: Training

Here you will read about the purpose of training for team members, how to do a training needs analysis, different types of training solutions available and how to ensure the benefits of training are realized.

U: Upward Progression

This chapter has some very important information about upward progression especially for more flat organisations which is more common nowadays where upward or vertical progression is not an option. What can we do to keep employees motivated even when we can’t give them a promotion? Some options explored here are:

  • Create exposure to senior management activities within their team.
  • Make someone a deputy manager.
  • Promote access to a mentor.
  • Secondments within other business areas.

Information is also provided on managing people’s expectations which is crucial in these types of situations.

V: Values

Of course, you can’t exclude this subject from any literature on leadership and management. Here expect to read about why values are important. And other questions answered in relation to values are:

  • Do values change?
  • Why are values important to managers?
  • Do we need to be treated the same?
  • What if I can’t satisfy someone’s needs?

W: Well done

As the title suggests this chapter is about rewarding performance but it throws a spanner in the works by explaining how inadequate money can sometimes be at rewarding people. So, what is the right way to reward people? In most organisations now financial bonuses are not an option, therefore learning to give non-monetary rewards is necessary. This chapter makes us think about these things though in my opinion it doesn’t offer any obvious ideas or solutions.

X: eXtra effort

This chapter is about employee engagement. A common HR phrase. The good thing is it does offer ideas about employee engagement most of A-Z management areas. For example, under B for Basics, it advices managers to ensure employees understand what is expected of them and what they are responsible for doing. And under K for Kindness, managers are advised to demonstrate consideration for employees.

Y: Your personality

We all have unique personalities and in the workplace personality differences can lead to conflict but also there will be areas where personalities match leading to harmony. Managers have to work to understand the different personalities in their teams and work with them harmoniously. This chapter provides some tools to help managers do that. There is a short personality assessment (just nine questions) that managers can use to assess themselves and their team members and advice is given on how managers should get to know their team preferences and adapt to them.

Z: Zone of successful management

This is the final chapter in the book, and it discusses the three areas that managers must balance to manage effectively. These three areas are:

  • Task: Achieving the required work output.
  • Team: To achieve the required work output the team must be led to work collectively.
  • Individual: Each team member must be supported appropriately.

Each of these areas are discussed in detail and if you are wondering why the three areas look familiar, it’s because they are the components of John Adair’s Action-Centred leadership framework. A good manager will operate in the middle zone of where the three components (represented as circles) overlap. Towards the end of the chapter we are reminded that to operate in that middle zone, managers must take care of the whole A-Z of management.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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