The # 1 Leadership Tool That You Should Use Right Now
The 2 Jobs You Must Do As a Leader
We can think of leadership as really involving two critical tasks. One of the critical tasks is to make decisions. Leaders have to make decisions about where to go, and they have to make decisions about how to get there. The other critical task for leaders is to implement those decisions.
Where they want to go is something that we might think of as the vision of the organization. I’ll have more to say about that later, but for the moment let’s just think about the fact that even setting the target, setting the direction, and identifying the vision is actually a decision that has to be made as well.
So for leaders, there are really two things they need to do, they need to make decisions and they need to implement those decisions.
The # 1 Leadership Tool That You Have in Order to Do These Critical Tasks
Turns out that one of the biggest levers that leaders have is inclusiveness. Inclusiveness is about getting other people involved in a leader’s decision-making. We can think about this as participation, opening up the channels of communication, and asking other people to get involved in the decisions that leaders have to make. This immediately offers two kinds of benefits, there are information benefits and there are motivation benefits. Information benefits are where I think of the head of effective leadership. Motivation benefits are what I think of as the heart of effective leadership.
Remember inclusiveness doesn’t need to be everyone, so if you want to be inclusive that doesn’t mean you have to ask everyone in your organization to get involved. One of the best ways of being inclusive, one of the most manageable ways of being inclusive is what’s known as representative inclusiveness.
Representative inclusiveness means getting a subset of individuals involved. People who reflect or represent everyone in a way that allows the leader to get the benefits of talking to everyone without necessarily having to talk to everyone.
So the decision-making benefits of inclusiveness are that managers often overestimate their ability to make high-quality decisions without the input of others or in some cases perhaps they fear it is their job to make these decisions without help.
In other words, asking others for assistance might be perceived as a sign of weakness. But inclusiveness provides you with more information and more information means better decisions.
The important principle here is that everyone sees the world a little bit differently. We all bring to the table our own unique constellation of experiences and perspectives. That means we can all look at the same thing and see very different things. Turns out those differences are a very important organizational resource. In fact, they are a critical organizational resource. Because what that means is when somebody is making a decision if they can tap into other people’s experience and expertise and perspective, they can make a much better decision than they would have been able to make on their own. Inclusiveness is simply about asking others to participate in the decision-making process. That provides a leader the opportunity to make more informed decisions because that leader’s going to have more information from more perspectives. That means more creativity, and that means better decisions at the end of the day.
Beyond those informational benefits, though, there are also motivational benefits and some informational benefits as well at the level of implementation. We need to keep in mind that the quality of a decision is always limited by your ability to implement it. No matter how good a decision you make, if the targets of implementation will not implement your decisions, you might as well have not made a decision at all because your decision is not going to solve the problem. It’s not going to achieve the goal that you set out to achieve, and remember that the success of implementation is always hostage to the enthusiasm and knowledge of the implementer. Implementers need to know what to do, that´s obviously a head issue, an information issue. But the implementers also have to want to do it, that´s a motivational issue.
So inclusiveness increases the implementer’s understanding, when we get them involved in a decision, they’re more likely to understand what the goal is. They’re more likely to understand why a decision has been made, and they’re more likely to understand their role and how to implement that decision successfully. But simply beyond those informational benefits are the motivational benefits of getting people involved in decision-making. Ownership by participation in the decision-making process breeds enthusiasm and supportive implementors at implementation. Particularly when we allow the implementers to shape a decision that is when we invite people in and ask them to participate in the decision-making process then that decision is more likely to reflect their concerns. They are more likely to support that decision during the implementation process.
The Downsides of Not Letting People Participate
What happens if we don’t allow people to participate? Well, we find that people often fall victim to what I call the spiral of despair. The spiral of despair happens when people are not involved in decision-making and over time become a little alienated from the organization. Most people when you hire them and when they start a job, they start out feeling energized and engaged and committed. They want to belong. They want to contribute. They’re hopeful about their role in the organization.
However, if they’re not really included in the process if they don’t really feel like they’re contributing. If they don’t really feel like they belong, if they don’t really feel a strong sense of partnership in the process, they can become frustrated, confused, forgotten, and even feel a little bit powerless. Eventually, of course, this can lead to apathy. When people start feeling indifferent or alienated, they may tune out. In real organizations sometimes when people reach the level of apathy, they may resort to drugs or alcohol or even counterproductive games or accidents. In fact, if this goes far enough, people can become subject to feelings of worthlessness, they can feel taken for granted. They may feel rejected. This can result in things like stress and turnover and absenteeism. The key here is that participation in decision making, letting people feel
involved in the process not only gives a leader more information and helps build a sense of ownership, it also prevents alienation. It helps people stay engaged and that engagement can be critical.
The Core Idea of Inclusiveness
The core idea here is that people want to feel like they have the opportunity to contribute. They want to feel like their human element, their intellectual resource is being utilized, not just their labor. To the extent that that is not being utilized often it surfaces in other unproductive ways. So a part of a leader’s job is not only to get people involved in order to create a sense of ownership and to get better information and to keep people informed about their role in implementation. But it’s also to keep people from slipping down that spiral of despair and starting to feel like they’re not engaged in what the organization has to offer them. So we can think about the benefits of inclusiveness in two of these big circles, the head circle, and the heart circle.
The head is really about two things, it’s about solution quality. When we include people in the decision-making process, we tap into their experience, expertise, and perspectives. That allows us to make higher-quality decisions. At the level of implementation when people participate, they get information that gives them a better understanding of what their role during implementation is and what, whatever we’re deciding about is intending to achieve. Those are both informational benefits. At the heart level, we have implementation benefits as well. When people participate in the decision-making process, they feel more committed to the decision, they feel more ownership of the decision. That’s going to make them more supportive of implementing that decision. But in a more general sense, participation also creates a stronger sense of control, contribution, and partnership. It increases workforce morale, and that means that people are more likely to feel engaged in the organization as well as engaged in the decisions that we make. Once again, representative inclusiveness is a very important piece of this. Because getting everybody to participate in the decision may be impractical. So what we want to do is make sure that we get some people to participate, even if it´s impractical, or too time-consuming for everyone to participate. You can often get many of the benefits of inclusiveness just by getting a subset, a few representatives of the targets of implementation involved. Particularly if they are carefully chosen.