How to inspire employees to achieve more together

The leader should not do everything with his own hands, because in this way his team will not learn anything, and he himself will continue to poke around in insignificant details. Coach Dan Sullivan and psychologist Benjamin Hardy are convinced that it is better to let go of control and learn to delegate tasks. They called this method “Who, not how”: finding the right performer is much more effective than trying to solve any issue on your own.

That is why transformative leaders must first develop and support employees. The latter will become more independent, and the leader will be able to deal with strategy, not micromanagement. Sullivan and Hardy are the authors of Who, Not How. Choose collaboration over competition .” With the permission of the “publishing studio field” Lifehacker publishes the fifth chapter.


In 2008, Nicole Whipp began working as a lawyer in Michigan. The economic recession hit this state especially hard because of the crisis in the auto industry. Finding a job at an existing law firm was next to impossible, so Nicole decided to start her own company.

For the next year and a half, she worked 80–100 hours a week. Nicole not only represented clients in court, but also typed legal documents, searched for information, answered letters and spent hours on the phone with clients. According to her, she was spinning like a squirrel in a wheel.

Nicole’s life is at a turning point . She was so exhausted that she thought about leaving her career as a lawyer. It was impossible to do everything by myself for a long time, doing the work of a team of three or four people. She did not rest at all, an endless list of what remained to be done was spinning in her head. She didn’t have time to recover. She lacked the strength to communicate with loved ones. In addition, she was going to have children, which certainly did not fit into the schedule.

Something needed to be changed.

To become a mother, she needed the freedom of time. She also wanted the freedom of money to secure the life she dreamed of for her family. Despite all the effort, failing health, talent, and insane hours of work, her annual income never grew to a six-figure figure .

Nicole decided not to leave the profession, but to completely restructure the work. She hired her first employee… which turned out to be a disaster, because Nicole herself did not understand what she wanted and what exactly she needed help with. She acted in a hurry and reacted to emerging problems, rather than thinking strategically. But her first hiring experience taught her some important lessons. Over time, she learned to apply the principle of “Who, not how.”

Nicole realized that other people are capable of doing most of her tasks, and often they are much better at it. She also found that rest and time off from work had a big impact on her happiness and confidence, which in turn had an impact on her performance and income.

Each time you invest in your own ideas, your determination to implement them grows. By investing in her first employee and learning painful lessons, Nicole strengthened her resolve. When you invest in something, you become more committed to it.

Nicole’s growing determination pushed her to a clearer understanding of what she wants from life: where she wants to live (as a result, she moved to Hawaii with her family), how much and on what projects to work on, how much to earn.

A clear understanding of the tasks allowed us to assemble a powerful team of dedicated assistants. Now she has several subordinates who have received training that helps them get the results they want. Nicole doesn’t micromanage but is ready to support her team when needed. She is dedicated to the staff and will do anything to help.

Nicole strives to support the people who work for her because she believes in them. For example, once she took an assistant with her to a business conference. During one of the exercises, each of those present had to stand up and talk about themselves for two minutes. Nicole’s assistant was horrified and wanted to refuse the assignment, but Nicole convinced her to try.

The assistant reluctantly did the exercise, during the conference her self-confidence grew and she became stronger in her goals. This experience triggered her personal transformation. The boss ‘s support helped me overcome my embarrassment and insecurity .

It is important for Nicole to strive for certain results and to captivate the team. To do this, one should not allow subordinates to doubt themselves. They need to face challenges and learn to overcome them. Otherwise, they will never dare to be committed to your cause—and their goals.

Nicole can safely be called a transformative leader .

Developed by psychologists, the theory of transformative leadership is now considered the leading theory of leadership throughout the world. Transformative leaders embody four traits.

  1. Individual approach: as a leader, you listen to the needs of each team member, act as a coach or mentor , and discuss problems. You provide empathy and support, speak openly, and set ambitious goals for the team, offering opportunities for professional growth. You respect everyone and recognize their personal contribution to the team.
  2. Intellectual Challenge: As a leader, you are critical of other people’s opinions, take risks, and take team members’ ideas seriously. You stimulate and encourage creativity, encourage subordinates to think independently. Help employees build self-confidence so they can make decisions and take risks on their own. You take learning seriously, value the benefits it provides, and see unexpected situations as an opportunity to learn. Listen to the questions of team members, in case of disputes, take responsibility for making the final decision on how best to solve the problem. You don’t micromanage.
  3. Inspiring Motivation: As a leader, you voice ideas that excite and inspire your team. You motivate employees to strive for more ambitious results, express optimism about achieving future goals, and help you see meaning in today’s tasks. Each team member must capture the strong sense of meaning that fuels their motivation to act. Purpose and meaning provide the energy that drives the team forward. For a leader and strategist, the ability to articulate a mission statement in a strong and persuasive manner is an incredibly important skill. You need to communicate the message to each employee in a way that is clear, precise, and attractive so that they want to put in more effort to complete the tasks assigned to them. Then they will be optimistic about the future and believe in their ability to cope with the tasks entrusted to them. They will be infected with your confidence and appropriate it.
  4. Idealized Influence: As a leader, you become an example for your employees in all matters of high moral behavior. You give them a reason to be proud and create a culture within the team, earning their respect and trust. The reason people follow you is because of your personality. Your values are authoritative. People want to be around you, learn from you, support your goals, and go through their own transformation by getting in touch with your ideas.

To achieve the desired results, Nicole had to fully believe in her goals. Moreover, she needed people who were equally devoted to her ideas. To do this, it was necessary to first believe and start investing in them: set ambitious goals and help them have a transformative experience. She broadcast her own confidence without relieving them of responsibility for their parts of the work.

Nicole has built a strong and dedicated team capable of self-management. Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, when she lived in Hawaii and the team remained in Michigan, Nicole was only required to clearly explain what needs to be achieved.

The team immediately rebuilt the principles of working with clients, most of whom fell into the risk group, being over 70 years old. Everything went well, the employees coped, and Nicole did not need to get deeply into the processes. Despite the crisis that broke out, Nicole’s team had enough confidence and flexibility to overcome difficulties, because in the past they had to solve problems on their own and they knew that their leader believed in them even in such a difficult situation.

There are two kinds of suffering: long and short. The choice is yours.

Show helpers confidence and determination

Dan Sullivan

Co-author of the book, creator of the “Who, not how” method.

Entrepreneurs have moved beyond the “risk frontier” and moved from an “economy of time and effort” to an “economy of results.” They have no guaranteed income, no one pays them a salary every two weeks.

They live off the ability to create opportunities by offering something of value to customers. Sometimes they—and you—invest a lot of time and effort without getting results. And sometimes, to get significant results, they, on the contrary, do not have to spend a lot of energy and time.

An entrepreneur must always think first of all about the results, otherwise he will not be able to earn. If you work for an entrepreneur, this applies to you too. While you most likely have a paycheck, it’s important to understand that the company you work for operates in a performance economy. It works that way, even if it doesn’t affect you directly.

I say this not to scare you, but to show you how to succeed in such conditions – to learn how to get maximum results with minimal effort and time.

If you want more freedom, you need to focus on results. Let others succeed. Let them freely carry out the tasks assigned to them and seek their own unique solutions. The effectiveness of delegation is confirmed by research data.

According to the theory of self-determination, every person has three basic psychological needs associated with work.

  1. Confidence in one’s own competence.
  2. Autonomy in choosing ways to perform tasks.
  3. Positive and meaningful relationships.

A social environment that supports the satisfaction of these needs ensures a high level of intrinsic motivation , mental and physical well-being, and the efficiency of all people within it. However, how exactly the needs are realized is of great importance.

Curiously, research has shown that teams with high levels of autonomy but low understanding of goals and little feedback perform worse than teams with low levels of autonomy. However, when people had a high level of autonomy, they had a good understanding of the goal and received regular evaluation of the results, their effectiveness increased dramatically.

Simply put, autonomy without clarity leads to disaster. People wander chaotically, unable to choose the right direction and stick to it.

The main problem of leadership – the lack of a clear understanding of the goals and the inability to convey it to the performers – leads to the fact that they do not see the point in the work and do not understand their own role. They experience stress and lose confidence in their abilities. This is not because they do not have enough resources or abilities, but because the leader does not show himself.

Instead of giving the team a clear understanding of the goal, trust and autonomy, set everyone up to get the result and be flexible in the ways the performers choose to achieve it, many obsessively control the process to the smallest detail.

The leader’s role is to confidently answer the “what” question—to define the desired outcome or goal—and then to provide clarity, feedback, and direction as needed. The leader does not have to explain how to do the job. The contractor himself decides how he will achieve results. The leader needs a clear understanding of how this result should look like.

This is where the “influence filter” can help . It allows all participants in the process to stay on course when faced with distractions. When building a house , of course, you can add a lot to the original project in order to improve something. But if it distracts from specific requirements that you can’t do without, distraction by improvements can ruin the original idea.

Clear criteria for success is an understanding of what must happen in order for the project to be considered completed. Having a vision of the result, your assistants will be able to stay on course. At the same time, they have the opportunity to independently decide what exactly needs to be done.

Without clear boundaries, performers will lose motivation. Boundaries and clarity create confidence. To support it, you need clarity and simplicity. Boundaries help pave the way to results . According to expectancy theory, one of the key theories in psychology, motivation requires clear, concrete results and a clear path to them. The boundaries developed with the help of success criteria are necessary to strengthen the motivation of the performer: they give a clear vision of what needs to be achieved, leaving complete autonomy in the choice of methods and methods.

Reward those who create. Do not encourage those who complain.

Chapter Summary

  • If you are serious about achieving results, you need to look for the answer to the question “who”, not “how”.
  • Firm determination is based on the understanding by the performer of what he is striving for, and complete autonomy in choosing ways to achieve the result.
  • Transformative leaders invest in the team, set ambitious goals for it, help them realize the goal. Eventually the goal becomes as important to the performer as it is to the leader.
  • Without a clear understanding of the goal, independence is ineffective.
  • Autonomy leads to high performance only if there is a clear understanding of the goal and regular evaluation of results.
  • Leaders should be focused on results, not on how to achieve them.
  • Leadership is not about controlling the process, but about providing freedom, autonomy, clarity and high standards of work.

“Who, not how” is suitable not only for entrepreneurs, but also for those who are tired of solving any problems alone. Perhaps you will make your life much easier if you stop doing everything yourself and start asking for help.

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