Leading from the top down no longer makes sense in the rapidly changing workplace. The most effectivestyle includes meaningful, ongoing collaboration between managers and employees.
One common mistake managers make is asking for feedback after a decision has been made. Richard Carr, former president and CEO of Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs, recommends having a “democratic conversation” well before making a key decision.
Managing People at Work has a discussion with Carr:
MPAW: What do you mean by a “democratic conversation”?
Carr: People need to feel included in decisions that affect them. Too often, leaders ask for input after the fact. You can get valuable front-line insights from workers through a variety of methods—meeting in a group, a town-hall session, meeting one-on-one, an email exchange, etc. Managers need this feedback so they don’t end up thinking they know everything and employees know nothing. In my experience, that’s almost always a recipe for disaster. Once you’ve received the input, it’s time to make the decision. At that point, the responsibility for execution is yours.
MPAW: Does conflict have a role in the decision-making process?
Carr: Conflict can be productive only in an atmosphere of mutual respect. If you fail to respect the person who disagrees with you, you damage the culture. There must be a sense of equality in the conversation. It can’t be, “I’m right all the time, and you’re wrong.”
Treating people with respect builds trust and loyalty. If you want your culture to grow, employees must feel they have a chance to contribute. People will only listen when they are being heard.
MPAW: What other mistakes do managers often make when making decisions?
Carr: A lack of focus is something I see often. This happens when leaders aren’t disciplined enough to say, “Here’s our plan for the next quarter and we’re sticking with it.” Refrain from getting sucked into the ever-changing priority or issue du jour. Constantly changing your goals makes it impossible for a group of people to function effectively.