What are the barriers to doing this?
Open, two-way communication is absolutely essential to build trust in any relationship. Yet most leaders are much more comfortable with one-way, mass communication…sending a group email, posting a flyer…than with communication that requires an “exchange”. When leaders create opportunities for an exchange with those they serve, it creates a possibility for vulnerability…for decisions or actions to be challenged or questioned. Not every leader is willing to put their sense of authority or control at risk for the invitation of their colleagues to participate.
Why is it important to do anyway?
Sharing information in ways that enhance participation means ensuring that those you serve have a way to ask you questions, have multiple ways to access you as a leader and are asked to give their feedback continuously. While this can be frustrating and even “messy” sometimes because you as the leader may be challenged or you may feel you lose control of the conversation, your organization will be better off if you hear your workforce out and use their criticisms to make changes that strengthen your organization. The members of your workforce have the most invested in the success of your company. Allowing them to participate in the decisions and direction of your organization is critical to furthering their level of engagement. Employees who are “with you” are happy to succeed with you, certainly, but are also willing to rally and go through difficult times with you.
How can you do it?
- Consistently use all of the “basics” of sharing information. Before anyone can participate in an exchange of information, they have to have a starting point of basic information. Strengthen and continue to use basic information sharing techniques such as newsletters, emails, department meetings, postings, etc. Enhance these tools by using some of the ways to promote understanding so your workforce is clearer on how they are to use the information.
- Promote participation by example. Take the time to visit with your employees, find out what they are doing, answer questions and ask questions of your own. Go to their area of work on their shift. This sets the example of participation. By your own actions you are modeling that you are interested and want to participate with your workforce. By extending this trust you may just get it returned to you in spades.
- Share “lessons learned” as often as possible. When there has been a significant learning or experience that has affected the outcomes or processes of your organization…share it. Involve all those that were a part of the situation to share their story and their lessons learned with others. This not only recognizes their role but invites them to participate in the shared learning of the organization.
What are some of the ways you promote participation in your workgroup?
Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog . We learn best from each other’s experiences.