Culture is a hot topic right now. With unemployment rates heading lower and lower, there’s increased competition for high quality employees. The best employees are looking at many elements to determine where they want to work, and culture is among the most important, along with compensation and a chance to learn.
The best cultures are oriented around empowerment decision-making — where there’s never a sense of fear around making decisions. Here are a few ways to create an empowering, decision-oriented culture.
First, as a manager, you need to learn to be the last person in the room to speak. When you get into a meeting and there is a challenge laid out in front of you, it’s tempting to offer your opinion right away — which the rest of your team will more than likely focus on as the solution.
Instead, you need to ask the right kinds of question, then close your mouth and let your team offer their opinions. The brainstorming should go around a couple of times and you should encourage a polite discourse. Doing this, you not only empower everyone else to have an opinion, but you hear varying points of view that can influence the final decision. You don’t necessarily have to synthesize all the opinions. You may still want to go with your first call, but at least you are hearing outside ideas, too.
Next — and related to the first point: Never directly answer the question “How should we do ‘x’?” You should always respond with, “What’s your opinion?” Thus you train your employees to come with a solution first and look to you for validation rather than an answer. That validation, or your resultant feedback, will go a long way towards building their confidence and encouraging them to solve the problems they see.
You can’t have a culture that expects to succeed when all the decision-making is centered on a select few. Some companies operate from a cult-of-personality perspective, where employees are afraid to make decisions that would fly in the face of leadership, but that’s a guaranteed recipe for failure in the long run. And what happens when that person is no longer with the company? Who takes over then? Empowering your team to be able to make decisions and move forward ensures alignment on the way your company operates.
The last bit of advice I can offer — which can be even more uncomfortable to do — is this: Celebrate failures. Most companies have all-hands meetings where they routinely celebrate successes. That’s all well and good, but you should also celebrate the “whoops” moments, while also zeroing in on how you solved those mistakes. The employees who made those errors should share what they did to overcome them and help others to avoid similar missteps in the future. From your failures can come great success, but people generally hate to talk about their mistakes. These are to be handled with the right tone, but celebrated nonetheless.
If you follow these three suggestions, you will be on the path to creating an empowering, decision-oriented culture — the kinds of cultures that succeed.
Don’t take my word for it — ask around and see what you come up with!