E4 - just another TLA

At IBM everything was a TLA - Three Letter Acronym. It is like entering into a new language, as if the culture shock of joining a company with 440,000 employees wasn't enough.


In that spirit I thought I should have at least one TLA, but it is a Two Level Acronym with 4 steps.


E4 stands for:

  • Engage

  • Enable

  • Empower

  • to Excel

During the Coronavirus lockdowns, managing remote teams requires you to implement four core management techniques.

You must engage with the employee, enable the employee, empower the employee so that they can execute and excel in this new world of work. 


Engagement is understanding more about their circumstances than you might in the traditional workplace. In the traditional workplace, your conversations would often be one level above the home circumstances unless that employee has had to bring personal circumstances to the fore. In the case of remote working, you need to understand more about the household, family, and residential situation, so that you can better understand and accommodate their unique situation in your expectations of their outputs. In the context of the Coronavirus lockdowns, regardless of the normal personal context, the employee may have the entire household at home instead of the norm where the partner and the children were away from the home most of the day.


The second important element is the enablement of the employee. Enablement can refer to providing them with personal skills such as time management and prioritization and motivation amidst the distractions of home. It will also refer to the technical requirements for an effective home working environment. This includes such elements as the physical environment being desk and chair, as well as providing the technology in the form of desktop or laptop workstations, the connectivity and security access electronically, instant messaging and the usual access to applications.


Thirdly is empowerment. Empowerment is having the skills and management support to make decisions on your own. Employees in the office may have often looked to their peers or to their manager to make decisions with them and for them, but they do not readily have that option at home. A simple tool such as the GROW model backed up with management support will empower them to frame the problem and consider their options. In the best case, they can choose between the options and take the necessary steps to make that happen. In the worst case, they can contact their colleague or manager and present the options in a structured way so that they can be helped to make the decision and make decisions themselves later. A increasing track record of mainly good decisions versus bad decisions serves to increase the amount of autonomy the employee is given.

This means that the employee could progressively independently define the goals for the day or the week and be able to execute against SMART objectives. It means that the manager has visibility of the work and progress – ‘inspect what you expect’. The manager will often have to guide the employee in defining the SMART goals because the manager is aware of the bigger picture and how the goals and timeline align with the requirements of the business. This is a form of empowerment because the employee knows exactly where they stand daily.


The fourth element is the execution to excel. This is the performance of the actual task and the ability to measure and report progress to your manager.   This is another application of SMART goals in that you cannot manage what you cannot measure.   Throughout the early weeks of remote work, agree on SMART goals with the team, and check-in with the team daily if need be. You want to build a structure and a cadence of calls, with accountability. This structure enables them to prioritise work and handle the home interruptions with a goal in mind. From the outset, you are providing a certain level of stability and certainty into their (and your) day in uncertain times.

This is not, and never will be again, Business as Usual.

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