One of the common themes in out blog has been the importance of employee engagement and building a cooperative relationship between management and employees. While organizations that have worked toward these goals have realized the benefits, many managers are threatened by the transition.
Managers, particularly front-line and middle managers, worry their skills will no longer be valued in organizations that utilize employee involvement. They may also fear the loss of control or even the loss of their jobs. These fears are often held by union leaders who are concerned engaged employees may no longer value the union.
Our message to leaders is that effective employee engagement requires strong leadership from both management and, in organized employers, the union. Without good leadership, the process will not develop, function, or receive the support it needs.
When we refer to strong leadership, we do not mean leaders who make decisions for employees or attempt to unilaterally set the direction of their organization. This directive style will be replaced by facilitative leaders.
In a recent article, Professor Lawrence Susskind of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology describes facilitative leaders as “individuals who can motivate people to set workable agendas, solve problems creatively, and support the organization in the face of opportunities and obstacles.”
He goes on to describe a facilitative leader as someone who consults with teammates to determine how decisions will be made, enhances the knowledge and confidence of the team so that each member is empowered to make informed decisions, and commits to decision-making by consensus instead of imposing unilateral rulings or settling for a majority vote.
We strongly agree with Dr. Susskind’s description, particularly the importance of consensus decision making. Decisions reached by consensus are stronger, better decisions because they are reached with the input of all team members. These decisions will be supported by the entire team which will then help sell the outcomes to their constituents.
Consensus decision making builds a greater commitment from team members, including the managers and leaders. This enables the team to tackle problems of increasing complexity.
Facilitative leaders help build consensus in their teams. Dr. Susskind notes: “Consensus building also requires putting the right kinds of questions to the group, such as asking for proposals that will solve a problem in a way that meets everyone’s interests.”
Current leaders may need help making the transition to their new roles. They need to better understand what will be expected of them and be reassured of the importance of their roles and the skills they already possess. They need to be trained in the methods they will need to develop as facilitative leaders.
CALMC provides training for leaders from both labor and management to help them become facilitative leaders. The process may be difficult for some, but is achievable with the support of their organizations. Contact us, and we will let you know how we can help you achieve this goal.