Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?
What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.
Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.
Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows people and the business to co-evolve into higher levels, enhancing personal responsibility, accountability, collaboration, innovation and business outcomes.
To do this, leaders need to empower employees to collectively make decisions that drive results and train employees to work in this model.
Employees on the front line are often in the best position to see trends and market opportunities.
Leaders can help drive businesses in new directions and enhance their bottom line by giving lower-level managers and line employees the support and encouragement to assume a much higher level of accountability and responsibility.
Information creation and sharing based on trust are critical components of innovation, according to author R.E. Miles. As they feel more engaged, employees are also more motivated to contribute and add value.
To achieve this, leaders must create an environment where risk within certain boundaries is rewarded so that employees feel comfortable enough to act on their abilities and instincts.
Leaders can support employees by encouraging ideas to grow and flourish among employees rather than through the manager. This will allow employees to identify and pursue opportunities that benefit the company.
The most important — and often most challenging — aspect of leadership is constant follow-through. It is important to discuss leadership techniques with employees and provide training.
Talking through leadership strategies with employees calibrates the group to be more in alignment. It also increases follow-through from employees who feel a part of the process.
Leaders can do this by:
■ Discussing best practices among participants
■ Identifying leadership needs
■ Generating solutions that fit with the needs of the group
■ Sharing best practices of employee collaboration throughout the company
■ Recognizing work among employees and outcomes
For example, a bank executive wanted leadership training for her front-line managers. Her goal was for them to be able to work out problems and challenges independently or as a leadership group without constantly seeking guidance.
For 10 weeks, we challenged the managers to take more risk and encouraged them to make more decisions at their level. Through group coaching meetings, the employees helped each other consider best alternatives and the executive learned how to manage by letting go. The managers reported feeling more encouraged and engaged, which considerably enhanced results.
Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Colker also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at [email protected] or at (312) 213-3421.