Everybody loves the Hollywood story about those lone geniuses who defy all odds to save the world, begin a company, or even change how baseball is played. The Great Man Theory of leadership holds to the idea that great leaders are born, not made. It’s a theory that this one resonant voice or vision will prevail.
This makes for a great film, but it doesn’t make for a great organization culture. Teamwork, in which employees have voice in the decisions that affect their jobs, is more effective than a bloated ego hollering out a bullhorn. However, in over 30 years working with organizations, conducting employee surveys and 360-degree surveys, we have found two opposing “truths”:
1. Managers believe they’re real team players and give their employees a voice.
2. Employees feel they don’t have a voice, that their concerns and ideas aren’t heard.
There is one thing we do know. Great is a result of collaboration. And that takes real skill from top leaders to develop.
Employee involvement is creating a culture in which employees have an impact on the decisions that affect their jobs. This requires a manager that coaches their employees, leading them to become more autonomous and empowered. It’s a key skillset to develop and develop in others. Here are 5 tips on how to give employees a voice, develop their leadership skills, and make great happen in your teams.
1. A culture of continuous learning is a key piece of employee involvement. Leadership skills can be taught. Take a skills audit of your teams to understand needs, opportunities, and the best course of action to improve key leadership skills including communication, decision-making, problem-solving, conflict-resolution etc. Provide employees with workshops, seminars, a library of materials to start developing their leadership.
2. Collaborative leadership gives employees a seat at the table. Create a work team to tackle a specific problem. Have them set their objectives and key results. Check in. Have the team socialize results with senior leaders.
3. Coaching is a balance between level of involvement and frequency of input. It will change for each individual, each situation, each process. Become a master of balance.
4. Collaborative leadership takes time, trust, and forgiveness. You’ve hired your team, and you have to trust them to do the job you hired them to do. You also have to forgive mistakes. Capitalize on mistakes as learning opportunities. Beware of having teams fall into risk-aversion.
5. Employee autonomy depends on organization strategy, mission, vision and goals. There should be clarity on what the organization wants to achieve and how the work of your employees and teams have an impact to achieve those goals. This is purpose.
Employee involvement, creating spaces for employees to make decisions on how the business runs and, in turn, take ownership in its growth and success, is a key piece of employee engagement. The best leaders develop other leaders. This takes skill, mindfulness, and resources. It’s worth it.