Leadership in today’s environment is becoming a more complex proposition than it has been in the past. With the availability of newer technology and a workforce that perhaps does not follow traditional top down edicts, like in the case of previous generations, finding a path that enables quality decisions to be developed and implemented is more challenging. What’s required is an integrated approach of technology and employee action. Looking at employee contributions, today, more “shop floor” engagement is required, where well trained and educated staff provide greater input and take increased responsibility for the job functions and deliverables. In such structures, management provides more of a supportive role rather than an “out-front” role, where they’re making all the decisions.

Today’s companies are requiring a workforce to develop innovative ways to work and to generate a competitive advantage. One of these ways is to harness the knowledge of the employees to solve many of the problems that arise. This paradigm shift is not easy to attain because traditional companies have cultures that are averse to change, preferring the status quote.

As a first step to bring about this paradigm shift, is the need to win trust. This trust must involve making it okay for the workforce to take risks without retribution if it doesn’t work out. It’s a fact that no one will take risks if they fear losing their status or jobs. This success through a winning “hearts and minds” approach is fundamental/foundational in the overall process of the management of change and culture transition.

The new principles require management leaders to properly recognize the experience and skill sets of employees to allow them to become self-initiating problem solvers/solution builders. Providing supportive coaching to encourage this facet of an employee’s development will generate a new proactive awareness which will result in a greater level of contribution and overall commitment. With this more enlightened approach comes the benefits where the employee, management, the job function and the company all win.

So, what are some of the steps to achieve this?

  1. Start encouraging contribution by initiating questions and allowing employees to develop their own answers/solutions individually. This will do more to stimulate respect and trust that any motivational speech a coach can make.
  2. Increase trust through effective listening so the employee understands this is real and not some management exercise. It needs to be a genuine interest and the coach/manager’s request must be made in an authentic way. Employees are not fools, and they know when they’re being tricked into something they don’t want to do.
  3. Provide useful feedback immediately to demonstrate you have heard and understood the suggestions. This will structure respect quicker than anything else.
  4. Ask how they arrived at that conclusions/solutions/ideas. Show genuine interest to generate confidence.
  5. Request what they believe is needed from the management team to make a suggestion work.

The most important thing to achieve through this process/approach, is to convince employees they’ve been heard, and their suggestions will be taken seriously. Confidence is one of these intangible properties that is often hard to stimulate but once “active” the goal is to keep flowing and to build on it continuously. Conveniently then, this fits with the philosophy of LEAN and its practical implementation to solve problems and improve processes.

This type of transition is difficult to initiate, but once rolling, can gather momentum quickly and be situation changing. To expedite success in this arena, the assistance of an experienced coach can prove invaluable in generating that initial momentum.