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Leading from Behind the Scenes: Building and Empowering Your Team

Katie Ehlis
Katie Ehlis, Founder & Owner, The Vanity Bar

Over my career, I have been in different roles and levels in an organization. And now as the founder and owner of The Vanity Bar, a boutique-style med spa in Fargo, one important lesson in leadership stands out. Authentic and true leaders focus on helping their team, and those around them, to find purpose and meaning in what they do. When groups of people have a common purpose and passion, amazing things happen.

Leading from behind the scenes is about allowing your team to find a common purpose and contribute to larger culture and growth. Leading from behind is not delegating all responsibility and duties so you can clear your plate, it is an ever-evolving process that requires you to keep your team on course by giving them guided autonomy to dream, innovate, and problem solve collectively. At the core of this concept is the ability to build an authentic community with a strong culture. At The Vanity Bar, we call it the “Bar Code” – a defined backbone for our culture that ensures everyone has a common purpose. The Bar Code is all about how we SERV which stands for, Show up Smart, Engage authentically, Respect all the ingredients, and Value and Validate. These four pillars create clarity, drive consistency, and empower the team to grow and develop.

  • Show up Smart – We’re not talking about book smarts, we’re talking about emotional intelligence. By having self-awareness and being able to read and recognize other’s emotions in the room, as well as recognizing your own self-worth, builds on how we can give and receive mutual respect.
  • Engage Authentically – Be a driver not a passenger when it comes to our culture. Drivers are able to follow a route and keep their passengers safe, but can still decide to reroute and make additional stops if needed. Passengers are just along for the ride and only do what they need to as passive contributors.
  • Respect All of the Ingredients – There is a recipe for a reason. Each ingredient plays an integral part. Pick ingredients not solely based on their resume but the unique gifts, talents, behaviors, and experiences they bring. When combined and blended, it makes the end result so much better. Don’t be afraid to shake it up and adjust the recipe when needed.
  • Value and Validate – Patrick Lencioni laid it all out in “The Ideal Team Player” that you need humility and hunger. As a team, we need to value both humility and hunger because these qualities allow leaders to take a step back. Humility is allowing yourself to check that ego and understand that you still can think highly of yourself but value what other people bring to the team at the same time. Hunger is about consistently looking for more and doing more. Validate those on the team that is hungry and know that having authentic hunger makes our team collectively stronger in achieving our goals.

Without trust, you can’t have mutual respect and authentic communication and dialogue.”

The goal is to stay mindful of the big picture and direction while supporting your team to be innovators and trailblazers. This coupled with well-defined parameters, empowers teams to take the lead. When your team is authentically part of the process both day-to-day and big-picture growth, you achieve true employee engagement. Trust is at the foundation of this practice – it allows a culture of mutual respect, authentic communication, and dialogue. Without those fundamental components, it is nearly impossible for team members to have the confidence to take on challenges and problem solve effectively.

Three actionable things readers can do to put this topic into practice right now

Define your purpose and values for collaboration, problem-solving, and valuing contributions.

Be deliberate with clear parameters so that your team can innovate and explore, but also have a good grasp and understanding of the boundaries. As a leader, sharing your intent and ideas provides clarity for the team.

Define your purpose and values
for collaboration, problem-solving,
and valuing contributions.

  • Define your purpose and values for collaboration, problem-solving, and valuing contributions.
  • Be deliberate with clear parameters so that your team can innovate and explore, but also have a good grasp and understanding of the boundaries. As a leader, sharing your intent and ideas provides clarity for the team.
  • Create a road map for practical leading from behind. It should include things like how you will stay involved throughout the process, how to celebrate quick wins along the way and provide authentic feedback, and/ or how to ensure things are staying on course.

Leading from behind gives me the opportunity to dream big and share my ideas with the team without a sense of fear. They know that dreaming big means opportunities for them to actively participate in shaping our work. It’s an amazing place to be when every team member is engaged, inspired, and moving together.

Written by Katie Ehlis

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