Leveraging Teams: How to Empower, Not Manipulate

Updated: Oct 30, 2018

To accomplish goals worthy of the position you want to achieve, you’ll have to accomplish more work than you can complete on your own by bringing others along with you. Here's how to do that.

There’s a strange sense of pride in the American workforce that comes from doing everything on your own and single-handedly saving the day. You can try to do that, but you’ll burn yourself out in the process, you won’t show any leadership potential, you’ll be limited to your own ideas. Successful entrepreneurs enroll others into their journey. Your journey is to proactively create value, preemptively solve problems, and perpetually seek innovation, so talk to your fellow coworkers to get their perspective and opinion on how to do those three things. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “Just curious, if you were in charge of this whole place for a day, what do you think you would do differently?”

Once you come across a problem to solve or an improvement to make in order to create value for your biggest customer (your boss), for an optimal outcome follow the following process:

1. Break down the components of the solution

2. Create a vision for what the solution would look like

3. Show momentum

4. Build a team

5. Repeat

Break it Down

Problems seem intimidating at the start, but anything that brings significant value will likely be too complex to accomplish in one action, and most problems can be broken down into simple categories. If your company needs you to create $100,000 in revenue, if you think about coming up with $100,000 you may want to go try your chances at the lottery. Instead, consider looking at such a daunting challenge through the following chart.

Depending on which model works best for your company, break down your timeline to accomplish your goal. Let’s say you can sell a product/service for $1,000, and you need 50 working days accomplish your goal. All you need to do is make two sales a day, and you’re good to go! Then you can break down the components of making a sale to figure out how much time you need to dedicate each day to get those two sales. Maybe it requires on average 10 calls to create 5 appointments, and 2 sales normally come from every 5 appointments. Bam, now you have a plan of action! They point is, and I hate to say this because I’m a people person and am not a fan of numbers unless they have a lot of zeros behind them on a check, to accomplish big goals you need to leverage a team, and to do that effectively – especially if you don’t have positional authority – you need to give them a clear path to success, and you do that through mastering the metrics. In other words:

Metrics are my best friend

Business is about people, yes, but to get in front of enough people at the right times to accomplish your goals, you have to get quantitative.

Create a Vision for What the Solution Would Look Like

So you’ve broken down what needs to be done. It’s still intimidating, but you have a clear path to victory. Along the way, though, without a clear vision of what success will look like, meeting daily metrics will likely get increasingly cumbersome, and if you’re planning on building a team to enroll on the journey of accomplishing your goal, they will lose motivation to hit your metrics and instead get caught up in the often mindless and comfortable work of checking email and going to meetings instead. To stay focused and motivated, build incentives into your timeline. Whether that’s not eating your midday snack until you knock out your metrics for the day, or promising yourself a steak dinner if you can hit goals ahead of schedule. The more you can personally invest in the success of the goal, the better. That includes your reputation, by making public what you’re going to do so that people can hold you accountable and so that they can see the momentum you start to create.

Show Momentum

When you go to build a team, a great vision is helpful, but great progress is even better. That’s going to require some work on your part, but it will make your pitch much easier to potential team members. Momentum in a clear direction is attractive (both in work leadership and in dating, by the way). You don’t have to do the whole project, but you do need to start the project. The hardest part of getting started is actually getting started, and if you can jump that hurdle and lead the way with a clear path to follow, you’ll be ready to accomplishing bigger goals than you ever could by working 80 hour weeks at the office with your limited 24 hours in a day.

Build a Team

As we established in the last section, people want to be part of a winning team, but they also want to be a part of an exclusive team. Would you rather go home and tell your friends you joined a team that anyone can join and they begged you to be a part of so they could have enough people, or that you applied to a position to join a select group accomplishing a special initiative, and you were just accepted after interviewing?

When pitching for help, explain the overall mission and how it will impact them, and show them how their role will fit into the specific plan to get there. Then limit the supply by requiring some type of application process, trial period, or personal buy-in. Motivation is all about perception. If they feel like you need them, they will be less inclined to help and work hard, but if you make them feel that they need you in order to be part of an impactful, meaningful project that’s going places, it only makes sense that they need to earn their right to be a part of the team. Whether you give your potential team member a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) before they join or just ask them to explain to you over coffee why they want in before they join the team, the fact that they have to work to commit beforehand makes them more inclined to follow through and be value-adding team members.


Just because you pitched the personal incentive at the start, doesn’t mean your job is done. People don’t want to feel micromanaged, but they also don’t want to feel alone. To strike a balance between the two, find a meeting schedule that works well for your group – try starting with once a week. Give KPI’s for each person (including yourself) each meeting, and then let each member discuss the completion of their KPI’s at the next meeting. You want the meeting to be structured, short, and consistent. Discuss the group’s progress toward the overall goal, and always find a way to highlight forward movement.


Teams can be more time consuming than productive without clear direction, but to continue to grow in your career, you will eventually be placed in positions of authority over people, and if you want to accelerate that process, create opportunity to lead people by inviting them on a journey with you to a goal from which you will all benefit.

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