The Sandbox

Recently, I was on the phone with a customer service representative to get a refund. To my frustration, he needed to ask his team leader for permission. This was a clear example of low performance due to lack of empowerment.

This got me thinking: There is a very simple and effective way to drive empowerment: It’s called a Sandbox.

A Sandbox is the playing field of your team. The boundaries of the Sandbox define its limitations.

There are two essential conversations you need to have if you want to play in a Sandbox.

If you lead a team, the Sandbox conversation starts with the following: “You will have all the freedom to do whatever it takes, provided that….”

These are called Sandbox Boundaries. Some examples:

  • Inform me immediately of any issues which jeopardize our key projects.
  • Any charges up to $1000 can be decided by you at your discretion.
  • It’s not ok to burn through other team members to get things done.
  • etc.

If you’re a team member, the Sandbox conversation starts with: “I will exercise all the freedom to do what it takes, provided that….”

These are Sandbox Game Rules. Examples:

  • Silence means you’re ok with what is going on.
  • I will have quick access to you if you need to make key decisions.
  • etc.

These two Sandbox conversations are a powerful way to drive empowerment and kick-start the development of a high-performance team.

Bonus feature: It will also avoid another blogpost from a frustrated client who had to deal with a non-empowered customer representative.

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