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Flood teams with data, then ask for ideas

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Amid the current economic turmoil, you may wonder whether it’s wise to update employees on all the bad news that affects your business. You want to level with them, but you fear demoralizing them if you keep notifying them of increasingly dire developments.

While it’s true that subjecting people to a steady stream of grim news can demotivate them or at least stoke their anxiety, it’s also true that most workers dread surprises. They want to know what you know—and plan accordingly.

In fact, one of the most overlooked motivational tools is to enlist employees’ help during troubled times. Present the stark reality to them—the financial constraints you face, reductions in consumer spending, etc.—and invite their input.

Even in a booming economy, you may discover problems with your manufacturing process or product performance. Rather than experiment with solutions on your own, involve your team.

“Executives ask me, ‘Can we really tell our employees the truth about this product?’,” says James Lucas, president and CEO of Luman International, a leadership development firm in Overland Park, Kan. “But I answer, ‘They already know the problems are there. Make them share ideas on how to deal with the problems.’”

Lucas cites a client—a large multinational corporation—with 27,000 employees. For years, it has struggled with high turnover and low morale. When Lucas arrived, he found that the company only told employees what they absolutely needed to know.

He proposed to senior managers that they begin by asking, “Is there any reason not to share this information with employees?” rather than, “Is there any reason to share this?” As a result, the company shares more than 80 percent of data (sales, new product development, customer demographics, etc.) as opposed to less than 20 percent, Lucas says.


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