Get employee buy-in

A lack of collaboration not only discourages employees, it leaves managers feeling powerless and stressed from the over-responsibility. That is the basis for the Gallup Poll research that states employee engagement and a more collaborative culture increases productivity by 74 percent.

So how might we create a more collaborative culture at work?

1. Managers need to resist giving the answers.

A manager I coached, vividly recalled a situation to me, “Most of my employees wanted flex-time over the summer because their young children were off of school, but I told them they all had to be here from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., because someone had to cover the phones.”

This is typical for managers: when they hear a request they believe only has one answer, they simply give it vs. empowering employees to figure out a solution.

After listening, I asked the manager five questions to which I received a “no” to all:

  • Did you remind your employees the goal for the call center: To have phone coverage from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday so customers would be satisfied?
  • Did you get buy-in on the goal again?
  • Did you ask the group to collaborate on a solution, considering their request and the company goal?
  • Did you help them create a collaborative question, such as: “How might we have the required phone coverage and consider flex time for those who need it?”
  • Did you give them a deadline for a solution and have them report back to you?

I reminded him that when we empower employees to discover the solution on their own; we get greater buy-in and produce strategic thinking employees.

He went back to the group with the collaborative question, and they agreed to alternate weeks for flex time, ensuring the phones were also covered as needed.

2. Employees need to collaborate with one another to meet the goals.

Creating a collaborative culture can also be done employee-to-employee by “calling the bird out of the bush.” For example, a manufacturing employee I coached was frustrated with a sales co-worker who continually brought in orders beyond deadline, causing a need to re-do production schedules, re-route deliveries, and keep employees overtime.

Once again I walked the employee through the collaborative process to create a collaborative culture, co-worker-to-co-worker:

  • Calmly, begin the conversation with the company goals in mind.
  • Get buy-in on the need to meet both goals.
  • Collaborate on a solution and present the facts. Do this by creating a collaborative question: “How might we meet the sales and operations goals, considering these late sales orders?”
  • Create a deadline for a solution and report your suggestions back to your managers

After our conversation he went back to the sales person, had the collaborative conversation and they came up with a solution to meet both goals.

3. Employees need to “manage up.”

When a manager sends out an order for a task and an employee has concerns, they can ask: “How might we fit your request in to what I am currently doing, considering the company goals and priorities?”

These collaborative conversations are possible when the following five culture shifts have occurred:

  1. There is a belief that engaging employees in the goals and day-to-day decisions increase productivity by 74 percent. If this fact is not understood, leaders and employees will take a fight/flight approach to problem-solving to gain instant gratification when facing obstacles.
  2. Managers need to resist having all the answers, and shift from a “tell leadership” to “ask leadership” approach.
  3. The mission statement and goals must have top-of the mind awareness, so they can be used for a collaborative discussion.
  4. There needs to be a collaborative culture norm that says: You find it, own it, collaborate with each other, and fix it!
  5. There needs to be recognition when employees collaborate. A McKinsey survey found employees viewed praise more valuable than cash as a motivator.

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