It has become the number one jargon buzzword in business over the past five years. “Culture”. It gets used a lot, but seldom explained.
“Good workplace cultures” get celebrated, “bad workplace cultures” are derided. But very few people are able to tell us what they actually mean by those phrases, other than places where workers are either happy or unhappy.
At AskYourTeam we have a very clear, one word understanding of what makes a great workplace culture. Involvement. When everyone in an organisation feels involved in running the business, then you have a great workplace culture.
Building a culture of involvement requires a modern kind of leader, someone who is willing to leave their ego at the door and to operate with empathy and humility. We call this leadership by involvement.
People who practice leadership by involvement see their primary role as empowering the people they lead with three things: Control. Competence. Connection.
They make sure their team members feel that they are allowed to control how they get their work done.
They make sure they feel competent, that they have the skills to get their work done really well.
They make sure their team members understand how their work is connected to the organisation’s overall mission.
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Leadership by involvement is about creating cultures where your team members have real control. They’re motivated to, and capable of working out what’s the best thing to do next without needing to be told.
Leadership by involvement is about seeing competence as abstract problem solving abilities, not just specific skill acquisition. Old school command and control management trained people by looking backwards - training your workforce to deal with a finite set of possibilities. Leading through involvement is about looking forward - it’s about making sure your workforce is upskilled and empowered to solve any number of problems that nobody has conceived of yet.
Leadership by involvement creates a deeper connection between the workforce and the organisation. Someone who practices command and control management only ever asks “do you like your job?” By contrast someone who practices leadership by involvement asks their team members “do you understand how your role contributes to the organisation's mission vision and goals?” and then they ask “do you think your talent, skills and capabilities are being fully utilised?”
In the fast-paced world of business today, leaders who don’t create cultures that are driven by the ever greater involvement of their people, risk being left behind by faster, more adaptive, more responsive organisations where involvement is the norm.
We live in an age when bosses who involve you more in the decisions that affect your work, are regarded as the great ones. And that’s what empowerment means. It means getting the people you lead more involved in organisational decisions, and trusting the outcome will be better for everyone.