A recent article in CIO magazine The Don’ts & Do’s of Creating an Inspired Workplace made some very good points. The Do’s in the article are common sense practices all managers should follow, however the article didn’t go far enough. I believe in establishing a corporate culture that lets everyone, not just management, participate in the organization’s success and survives any particular manager.
There are three basic cultural approaches I’ve used in the past that have worked well.
The first is elimination of fear. Once people understand that every idea they have deserves consideration, and they will not be shot down for raising it, their passion for improving the business will manifest. Many employees are afraid to raise ideas for fear that their boss will respond with ridicule or apathy. The open door management policy is largely a myth. To make it real, it’s important to acknowledge all ideas. Let employees know that even if an idea is, at this point in time impractical, it is still worthy of consideration nevertheless.
The second is communication between people — not just top down. I’ve seen many cases in which employees say they can’t get something done because a peer is not cooperating. More often than not, they’ve not communicated with each other. They get signals from management that empowerment is only top down. Establishing a culture where people are expected to communicate with each other and commit to each other goes a long way to fueling successful business gowth.
The third is respect. Several of the Don’ts and the Do’s from the article in CIO magazine are manifestations of the disrespect/respect behavior. Respect is a behavior that must come from the leadership of any organization, and must be demonstrated by the entire management team and expected of everyone. Treating all people in an organization with respect and dignity will forge a healthy relationship between the individual and their employer. The consequences of a culture of respect, may not directly translate to better or faster growth or even higher profits, but it will ultimately make sure people feel good about the contributions they make or are asked to make.
Recently, I led the turnaround of a high-tech online media company. This turnaround would not have been possible if not for the team of individuals who were inspired to work together toward a common set of goals. Eliminating fear, fostering communication and emphasizing respect set the stage for the turnaround.