Challenge your employees to think by engaging them in decision-making

Any time you have change in your company, you have the potential for conflict. It was Charles Darwin who said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.”

Each person will react differently as adjustments are made in response to changes in your industry. It’s natural for employees to question management, co-workers and even themselves as they are forced outside of their comfort zones. Those questions can easily lead to misunderstandings that can spiral into conflict and ultimately slow your growth.

Be proactive and address these issues head-on. Engage members of your organization by providing the necessary forums both for you to communicate your strategy and vision and for them to share their concerns back to you. An open dialogue will help drive your vision for the company through the organization and will also help foster your next generation of leaders as they take a more active role in the future of your business.

Only when employees are challenged to think — and to challenge you — will you maximize your organization’s potential. Do you want employees who don’t speak up when they recognize what may be a fatal flaw in your grand strategy? Or would you rather have employees who are actively thinking about the big-picture goals of the company and doing their part to contribute?

Essentially, it’s a choice between having employees acting like robots or acting like people. If you choose robots, you will have to have all the answers. If you choose people, you only have to have some of the answers because the employees will help you find the rest.

Engaging employees in conversations, meetings and decision-making helps them take ownership and helps you create a happier workforce. If they are not allowed to speak, gossip and rumors will drag down your productivity.

Actively promote two-way communication. Let employees do the talking and hear what they have to say. The results may surprise you. Those closest to the customer often know best what needs to be done to improve sales, service or efficiency, so don’t let that knowledge go to waste. 

Talent development is a critical role for any leader. We need to do what it takes to grow and retain skilled individuals rather than drive them off with a work environment better suited to a good robot.

Fred Koury is president and CEO at Smart Business Network.