You may be (or you are) the smartest guy in the room, but are you smarter than you plus everyone else in the room? Collectively, your employees have more experience than you do, and because they’re immersed in the nitty-gritty details of daily operations, they know things about the business that you don’t. They know where resources are being wasted and they know what’s working well and what’s not. So doesn’t it make sense to harness that knowledge and experience when you’re faced with making difficult decisions and solving perplexing problems? Still not sure recruiting the brain power of your workforce is a good idea? Please continue reading below and we’ll try to convince you.
It’s lonely at the top, isn’t it?
It is if you’re trying make your company’s toughest decisions and solve its knottiest problems all by yourself. Even if you’re leaning on your management team for help and support, you’re still ignoring a great, untapped resource: your employees.
So what’s in the way? Why wouldn’t an owner or CEO want to get help when it’s so readily available? Well, for one thing, seeking decision-making and problem-solving help, not just from the management team, but from people throughout the organization, is kind of a new idea that the CEO might not have even considered. But there are other possible explanations:
- Arrogance. The CEO may not believe that the people who are running machinery and doing routine administrative chores are capable of creative thought. He or she may think, “I’ve got an MBA and you want me to ask for help from people who may have spent a semester or two at a junior college . . . if that? What could they possibly know that would be helpful?”
- Pride. In many organizations, making the tough calls has always been the sole domain of the CEO. So the CEO may be afraid that inviting others into that domain will be a sign of weakness. And how’s it going to look if someone actually comes up with a good idea that the CEO hadn’t thought of?
- Fear. What happens if the employees get themselves locked onto a solution that the CEO believes is wrong and can’t support? Will there be a palace revolt?
While these factors are real and must be overcome, the big stumbling block is culture change. Most organizations today are still mired in a top-down management structure whereby most meaningful decisions and solutions are handled at the highest levels. Of course, we depend upon the lower levels of the organization to implement decisions that are made at the top, even though the lower levels played no role in crafting those decisions. That’s the part of the company’s culture that will have to change. Top management must be more inclusive and open its decision-making and problem-solving processes to people throughout the organization. For their part, the people being invited into the decision-making and problem-solving club must accept the responsibility and accountability that go along with club membership. In addition, these newest club members may be expected to execute decisions, since they now have a hand in crafting them, with commitment and enthusiasm.
“The best ideas for improving a job come from those who do it every day.” ~ Jim Bleech, business consultant
Incidentally, in case the thought has crossed your mind, we’re not talking about turning your organization into a democracy. We’re not advocating putting every decision you make to a vote. As owner/CEO, final decisions are still yours to make and yours alone. We think it makes sense to give your employees a voice in your decision-making and problem-solving processes . . . but not a vote.
Harnessing the brain power of your workforce doesn’t cost you anything. You’re not adding anything to your payroll, so why squander a valuable resource that you’re already paying for? Besides, as an added bonus, your people will feel good about themselves, about you, and about the company because you’re showing respect for their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. You will have elevated them from mere employees to trusted colleagues and advisors.
How you bring about this change in culture will vary somewhat from organization to organization. A large organization will likely do it a bit differently than a small one. If you’re running a 3-shift operation, you will probably have some challenges that will not be faced by a nine-to-five operation. Likewise, if you have multiple locations, you will face some difficulties not faced by companies with a single location. Still, the culture change we’re suggesting here can be accomplished with any organization provided you’re committed to it.
If you think the notion of bringing more brain power into your decision-making and problem solving-processes has merit, but you’re unsure how to go about it, contact me . . . I’ll be glad to help.