For years, leaders at the top of many organizations often had more knowledge than those on the frontlines. Today, the game has changed. Technology has put knowledge in the hands of anyone with access to a computer or handheld device.
Today, it's impossible for leaders to know it all. Plus, it is not in their own or in the organization's best interest to try. That's why you need to involve team members in finding solutions and innovations that boost product and service reliability for your customers.
By asking your employees questions, you engage in a two-way information exchange. To continue to create the reliability advantage, involve your team in improving its work process and output. Take the ideas your team gives you and involve them in developing solutions to problems, identifying areas for improvement and finding opportunities for growth.
People support what they help create. Ask team members to bring you solutions along with problems. By involving employees, you enlist their ownership of new issues and solve problems. Some leaders feel threatened by the idea of involving their employees in identifying and solving problems. They believe they're giving up control over how their team will achieve its goals.
However, excellent leaders realize there is more than one way to solve a problem. An employee's approach might be different from the leader's, but the personal ownership that comes from being involved in the solution far outweighs any loss of control that a leader might feel.
Involve to Improve
There is no doubt that five heads are better than one, so involve your team - your experts - in seeking new ways to reduce expenses, improve quality, expedite customer service or improve coordination with other departments. Employees will exchange their involvement for ownership in the outcomes. Their ideas will make their work more interesting and efficient. Involve your team members in solving problems - team problems or even their own performance problems. You know what they say ... the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.
One of our long-standing clients, National Motor Club, is a provider of roadside assistance and other membership benefits for owners of autos and recreational vehicles. Their CEO at the time, Matt Krzysiak, rolled out an initiative called "The Dumb Things We Do." It was a lighthearted, non-threatening way to uncover goofy policies and inefficient processes that chipped away at customer loyalty, profit margins and employee engagement.
Over the course of a week, employees submitted short descriptions of any activity they thought did not add value and should be stopped. All the feedback was compiled into a single list. Krzysiak shared the list with the entire company - with an open mind, no judgment and lots of laughs - to reinforce his team's courage in revealing these issues. Then he involved the employees in fixing or stopping "The Dumb Things We Do."
The biggest opportunity for improvement is typically with the skills on your team. Underutilized skills are hidden yet huge areas of waste. Start by appreciating that all employees are different and have different levels of potential. Just like your kids, you cannot view them as the same person with the same needs and potential.
Excellent leaders do not try to make everyone achieve at the same level; rather, they see it as their mission to help each employee reach his/her potential. To do so, when you address specific performance problems with employees, involve them in identifying the root cause of the problem and solutions to enlist their ownership in reaching their potential.