by Richard Highsmith
Ask, and then listen. Really listen. Tap the creativity and differing perspectives of all employees. An effective leader has learned that good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. It may be the employee with years of experience who combines innovation with “tried and true” to get the job done. Or the “bright idea” might come from the newbie employee who offers a fresh solution to a nagging problem.
I once owned a small manufacturing company. Every Monday morning I held a brief staff meeting of all employees. My intention was to allow anyone to express himself or herself on any topic. We were discussing a complicated shipping issue once and a brand new eighteen-year-old part time employee made a suggestion that saved the company about $10,000 a year. None of my senior employees had considered the solution. We were too close to the problem and too locked in to the “we’ve always done it that way” syndrome. I owned the company for ten years, which means that young man saved me $100,000 with his fresh idea. If you treat all employees as creative wells of valuable information, they will continually shower you with great ideas and attitudes.
In some organizations all communication about change comes from the top down. Picture a pyramid with a peak at the top from which all ideas originate. In this environment there is little lateral communication and virtually no rise of ideas from the base of the communication pyramid. This type of structure places an enormous burden on leadership. The “top few” must think of all possible ramifications of decisions. Since the work environment is constantly changing, it doesn’t take long for the top of the pyramid to lose sight of the bottom. Consequently any leader acting alone makes decisions from a limited viewpoint.
In the top-down style of leadership potential problem areas can be overlooked. In top-down communication, employees feel powerless to influence opinion. Since management does not invite employees to offer new ideas or solve problems, employees rarely buy-in to new plans. Without input and commitment from Jane and Joe, new plans soon become failed plans. And failed plans can further widen the communication gap between managers and employees.
Creating a positive, productive work place begins with open discussion. Managers should encourage the ideas of as many employees as possible. Communications will then flow in all directions through the organization. Picture a beehive with ideas flying from every corner.
When managers use the Bee Hive rather than top-down communication, employees are comfortable asking questions and offering creative ideas, which can lead to valuable solutions. If their ideas and suggestions are appreciated, they will feel more ownership in the resulting change. Job satisfaction will soar. In this positive environment, employees will “try on” the proposed changes and feel confident suggesting ideas for improvement. This will happen naturally through conversations with each other and supervisors an in scheduled meetings. Effective managers initiate discussion, listen to their employees and then create plans.
About the author
Richard Highsmith, [email protected], is President of Quality Team Building. He has twenty-five years experience training and coaching. He has built and sold two successful businesses. To learn more about becoming a team leader visit our website at [http://www.qualityteambuilding.com] or call Rick toll-free at 1-888-484-8326 X101.