Tag Archives: criteria

Empowerment rocks!


Foo Fighters drummer - Taylor Hawkins

Foo Fighters drummer – Taylor Hawkins

Six empowerment lessons from the rock industry by looking at the history of the Foo Fighters.

The Foo Fighters are a rock band that got popular in the nineties, made it through the two-thousands and still are popular in the two thousand and tens. During the years the setting of the band changed and a lot has to do with how the lead singer, Dave Grohl, changed his leadership style.

Dave Grohl came free from the popular band Nirvana after dissolution after the tragic suicide of lead singer, Kurt Cobain. In Nirvana, Dave was as drummer responsible for the heart beat of the band. But Dave had more talents than only drumming: he also could play the guitar and bass. He even could sing very well! After some solo (re)work, he started the Foo Fighters band with him as lead singer.

In the first set-up with the band, the drummer was William Goldsmith. When recording the album “The Colour and the Shape” in 1997, William was responsible for all drum parties. Dave Grohl had set a high ambition level and wanted only the best for the new CD. Because of his drumming experience in Nirvana, he knew very well how to play the drums and was not satisfied with the current recordings of William. When William was away for a while, Dave picked up his old drum sticks and redid all the drum parties of the CD in the way that he wanted them to sound. When William came back and was notified of this, he was very disappointed. Not very long after this event William decided to quit the band.

Dave made a typical leadership error when delegating which is taking back/over the work that was delegated and doing it himself. Because it was better, faster, tighter, etc. Instead of discussing the (mediocre) quality of the recordings and having supported William, Dave chose the shortest path and took the delegated work back.

Drummer William was replaced with Taylor Hawkins, which still is the drummer of the Foo Fighters, and we can see that Dave learned a valuable lesson. He now lets the drummer, Taylor, free to use his creativity and imagination when recording the drum parties. They have established a real cooperative relationship which even can be seen during the live performances of the band: the drummer (and also the heart of the band) is in sync with the lead singer. During their performance at Pukkelpop 2012 I was really impressed by how attuned they were to each other.

Six tips for bringing empowerment to your work floor

  1. Discuss what empowerment means to you and your team.
  2. Learn to really delegate.
    1. Explain the “why” and the “what”.
    2. Set criteria for the output and steer on these criteria.
    3. Do not get involved in the way works needs to be done. Leave the “how” for the delegee.
  3. Create a feedback loop.
    1. Give feedback on results.
    2. Discuss the problems, not the person.
    3. Discuss about facts, not assumptions or personal interpretations.
  4. Start with small assignments, give bigger ones when successful.
  5. Delegating assignments means also delegating the benefits that belong with it.
  6. Give recognition to your employees.

Additional reading

Foo Fighers @ Wikipedia

Top 10 Principles of Employee Empowerment

Top 7 Self Empowerment Tips

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Steering on criteria


Some time ago, i asked a friend of mine to develop a poster for a staff association event. He pretty much got carte blanche for designing it. After a week, he send me the first proposal. The design was real good, but I was surprised to find that the club logo was not on the poster, so i gave him the “feedback sandwich”: positive – negative – positive remarks.

Next version i got was better, but after thorough review, i noticed that the location and website details were not displayed like on all our other posters. So i asked him to change, again. Afterwards it came to me what i was doing wrong: i was involving on the “how” of the job. I was my task to steer on output, on criteria, not on the how.

If you specify the criteria, the designer still has carte blanche, but his solution needs to meet certain criteria. To get back to our story, for the next poster i decided to steer on criteria. He could make whatever he wanted, but on the poster, the address, website, club logo and responsible editor needed to be mentioned. And so it was.

The output manager

By steering on criteria, you do not get involved as manager in the how of the assignment. This gives you some control of the results to be produced, and the assignee the freedom to use his creativity. Success is defined by meeting the criteria of the assignment.

The challenge here is actually for the manager: managers tend to hit the pitfall of “knowing it better” and getting involved in the how of the assignment. This will give the assignee the impression of distrust and is known as a killer for motivation and creative ideas.

Another example

You decide to replace the central heating system of your house. It’s not a job you can do yourself, so you contact a contractor. At your home, you ask for heating system XYZ because you heard it was a very energy efficient system. Also, the living room has to have 2 nice design radiators of 1 on 1,5m. The contractor can fill in the rest of the details.

When you pick this approach you might have some problems in a strong winter: it looks like your heating system is not up for the challenge and cannot produce the cozy warmth of 21 degrees Celcius. The problem here is that you were involved in the “how” of the job of an expert, and have made some wrong choices. You cannot take this up with the contractor, because he has delivered what you asked for.

How would you give the same assignment when steering on criteria? Specify why you want the new heating system: it needs to be energy efficient. Further, you can specify the brand of your radiators, but not the exact size. Last but not least, during the winters the heating system needs to be able to produce 21 degrees Celcius inside when the temperature outside is -15 degrees Celcius.

This way the contractor can choose the best solution because he knows what your needs are.

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