Here’s how to raise your enlightenment quotient:
Cast a wide net. When strategizing with your staff, look beyond your immediate markets and business model to study how other companies operate. Compare how competitors deal with the same challenges you face.
Example: There’s a shrinking market for your key product, so you turn your team into researchers. “Let’s find five companies that anticipated this and adapted,” you say. “We can learn from their failures and successes.”
Cite precedent. Tie your lofty ideas to concrete examples. Example: You want employees to accept yet another abrupt change in direction. You say, “We don’t have the luxury of sitting still.” Then show how Intel Corp. has mastered the art of change: It used to make memory chips, then it switched to processors, now it markets them as branded consumer products.
Identify options. Enlightened managers don’t try to resolve disputes among employees by ruling who’s right and wrong. Instead, they list alternatives and leave it up to staffers to pick one.
“As I see it, you have three options,” you tell warring workers. “You can continue on your present course of open warfare; pretend to get along while secretly trying to sabotage each other; or agree to disagree and get your work done.” Then you get their commitment to follow through on the only option that makes sense—agreeing to disagree and moving on.
Play the “you want/I want” game. As a manager, you can declare what you want and walk away. Employees either comply or risk your wrath.
But there’s a more enlightened way. Consider what your workers want first; then connect it to what you want. That means listening to their suggestions, observations and complaints.
If you want them to take on more duties without more pay, acknowledge their repeated requests for more flexibility. Say: “You’ve asked for less rigid hours and we can do that now. But I need you to use that flexibility to make a greater contribution.”