When leaders listen, are aware, and sensitive to the feedback and input of their team, then engagement will flourish. Jesus describes what it means to be in a position of authority, you are meant to serve. This is described in Mark 10:45 when Jesus states, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Leadership is about those you serve not just the individual at the top. When leaders stop and listen to their team, they will see their team flourish with greater engagement.
I’ve been mentoring an executive at a mid-sized organization, let’s call him “Jack.” One day when we were talking about his work, Jack became very despondent. The story that unfolded was a warning flag regarding the leadership of the organization.
A Great Idea
Jack explained that he had a great idea about an initiative that could substantially improve the performance of his organization. It would require the participation of many of the other departments of the organization in order to implement effectively. Additionally, these departments would be impacted by the decision to implement the idea.
These organizational functions and departments could provide helpful suggestions regarding how to make the idea even better and best implement the initiative.
Top-Down Leadership Directive
When Jack went to the president of the organization about the idea, the president really liked it. However, when he asked the president if it would be OK to involve the other departments in the decision-making process, the president said NO. WOW!Everything rises and falls on leadership. – John C. Maxwell Click To Tweet
The president requested that Jack single-handedly perform all the research, and come up with all the questions and corresponding answers to implement the proposed idea. Then and only then, should he go to the heads of the various departments and present his findings. OUCH!
I feel sure that the president of the organization was unaware of the Participatory Paradox. But just because you aren’t aware of a timeless principle, it does not mean that you are immune to its truth. His desire to efficiently limit the involvement of related people and departments will, in the end, reduce his effectiveness. The dollar he saves today may very well cost him two tomorrow!
The Outcome: Sapped Enthusiasm
What happened next you most likely already know. The new policy and procedures did get implemented, but with very little enthusiasm.
Under each team member’s breath, there was a silent push-back.
I’ve discovered that poor decision-making can sap the enthusiasm of your people and create poor results for your entire organization.
If the senior leadership of the organization is not living out the method, or teaching the principles of a participative leadership style (employing the 1-2-3 Decision Making process) approach, your team is not likely to understand the process, let alone take the time to employ it.
Instead of first blaming someone else for strained relationships or substandard results, effective leaders take a long, hard look in the mirror. Good leaders listen to their team.
As a leader, how can you cultivate peak performance to maximize your success? The answer is simple but eludes most leaders. You obtain optimum results by engaging your employees through a participative leadership style.
And therein lies the paradox. Most people assume that strong leadership means independent action and that greater control produces greater results. However, and ironically, the reverse is true.
The Participatory Paradox: The more you include others in the decision-making process, the stronger your results and leadership. Likewise, the more you exert absolute control as a leader, the weaker your results and leadership will be.
Always remember that the most important things in the world aren’t things. They’re people and relationships!
That is the reason I’ve been writing about one of the best ways to engage your people –it’s called the 1-2-3 Decision Making leadership tool.
First, let’s explain the 1-2-3 Decision Making process, and then we’ll look at why most leaders fail to employ such participative approaches in their own leadership.
What is 1-2-3 Decision Making?
1-2-3 Decision Making is a unique approach to the decision-making process defined as:
At the very beginning of the decision-making process – AND before making a decision – the empowering leader seeks input from his or her employees. Such a leader asks:
1. Who can help me make a better decision?
2. Who will have to carry it out?
3. Who will be impacted by it?
The answers to the three questions above will guide leaders to assemble the right people and involve them, as appropriate, to help make important decisions. Leaders that listen can change the core of your organization.
The power of 1-2-3 Decision Making is available to any leader if they simply follow this approach as they make important decisions in their organization.
Could I suggest to you that the benefits of such an approach are worth the effort? I know, because I’ve seen the outcomes: better decisions are made, and teams become more effective and efficient.
Now, you may be asking, “Why don’t more leaders take this approach with their people?” Good question! I have learned that many leaders form incorrect assumptions about this powerful approach to leadership. Consequently, they miss out on enhanced relationships with their people and better financial results for their organization.
Every leader can embrace the 1-2-3 Decision Making process by avoiding the following five incorrect assumptions.
The following are five reasons why many leaders don’t pursue the 1-2-3 Decision Making process:
- A person who is bright, knowledgeable, dedicated, decisive, and dependable may also be impatient and intolerant when dealing with others. Consequently, he or she assumes that no one else in the organization could possibly contribute toward a better decision or plan.
- A leader may think he has to give up the drive for results to have more of the 1-2-3 Decision Making process. (I have seen this way of thinking is not correct. It is not either-or. To be the most effective leader requires embracing both the 1-2-3 Decision Making process AND the drive for results.)
- Some would question whether a participative leadership style means running your organization as a democracy. (The answer is no. As the leader, you always have ultimate authority and responsibility for decisions and results.)
- Some would even think that the participative leadership style means creating consensus decisions among all members of your team. (This assumption is likewise incorrect. Consensus decisions usually take forever to be reached and yield diluted results.)
- Some also think that the participative leadership style is not always the right approach. (There may be times this process-oriented strategy isn’t best, but it’s generally the most powerful approach a leader can take when driving for results.)
There are many concerns that get in the way of leaders fully applying this principle, such as the president of the mid-size organization mentioned above. Anyone can, however, make conscious decisions to learn and leverage this powerful principle of participative leadership. And the best, most practical way I’ve discovered to employ this approach is the 1-2-3 Decision Making leadership tool.
Every leader can use the 1-2-3 Decision Making process to avoid up to six negative consequences.
6 Consequences of NOT Implementing 1-2-3 Decision Making
Every leader can benefit from the 1-2-3 Decision Making process. If you don’t choose to employ these principles, you will undoubtedly suffer some or all of the following consequences:
You’ll make decisions based on incomplete information.
And the more bold and decisive executives become, the more likely they are to disregard good processes and expediently focus on the drive for results. In doing so, they ignore the rich resource of information that can only be found in their front-line people.
Their singular focus on things, and disregard for people, becomes a trap that hinders their team’s effectiveness and ultimately limits their overall results. Leaders listen to their team first.
Save an Ounce, But Pay a Pound
You may save an ounce of effort in one area/department without realizing it will require a pound of effort in one or more other areas/departments.
When we have problems communicating or interacting, we tend to blame the environment or someone else rather than ourselves. Leaders often think that a quick decisive approach saves time and money, but often they spend far more time on the back end of the decision – trying to gain buy-in and boost the engagement of their people.
How easy it is to settle for an attitude like, “I wish the other departments in our company would be more communicative and cooperative with us.” Or: “I wish others would listen to me.”
A leader’s results-focused approach becomes a trap that stifles relationships, limits results, and sabotages our best-intended efforts. Leaders must listen first.
The Mirror Mantra: As the leader, look into the mirror and tell yourself that decision making is a continual activity within any organization with many leaders and employees involved at all levels of the organization.
You’ll experience limited progress through unilateral decision making. Instead of attacking the main issue or opportunity head-on, you’ll “spin your wheels” trying to gain buy-in from your people!
People not only want to follow directions from their leaders, but they also want to be respected and invited to use their minds to help their organization.
Lack of Inspiration and Enthusiasm
Team members will lack inspiration and enthusiasm when being asked to implement something they weren’t “in on”.“We are generally not ‘up on’ what we are not ‘in on.’” Click To Tweet
Folks can quickly become disenchanted with supervisors who make decisions unilaterally or expect to be obeyed, simply because they are the boss.
This understanding affirms the well-known adage, “People don’t leave companies, they leave supervisors!”
People won’t get truly inspired to achieve peak performance unless they are asked for their input on what should be the goals and processes.
Unsuitable approaches result in unhappy employees at all levels of the organization. This is especially true on the front lines, when folks are repeatedly asked to carry out decisions in ways that they know are not as effective or efficient as they could be.
Leadership insight: The more capable and dedicated the employee is, the more frustrated they will be with unilateral, non-participative leadership.
Likewise, the supervisors and managers are unhappy that the people reporting to them aren’t more excited and enthusiastic about carrying out their responsibilities.
Can you just see the dog trying to chase his tail?
People Feel Used
It’s only natural for employees at all levels in an organization to feel like they are being perceived as only tools rather than as knowledgeable, thinking individuals. The result is that they rapidly become uninspired employees.
When we relegate people to carrying out someone else’s orders, we prevent them from having a full measure of opportunity to achieve. They typically choose fight, flight, or submission in response.
Management must understand that refusing to involve employees, even in the simplest of activities, will only serve to discredit a “people-first” culture. When leaders listen, your team engagement will flourish.
- What are you doing to motivate your employees?
- Which incorrect assumptions do you have?
- What changes can you make regarding how you do things to become the most effective leader?
Related, Articles, Videos, and Podcast Episode
- You Can’t Lead without Trust with Garret Larsen
- Discover Your Unique Core Values that Promote Organic Growth
- How to Hire the Right People to Combat the Great Resignation
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