Collaboration, Collective Intelligence & Employee Engagement
Employees as assets

Don't be a blind follower!

Blind leading the blind 000000837944XSmallThe HR news this week has hardly been encouraging, and brings to mind rather forcibly the adage “If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:13-14 Holy Bible: New International Version)

It all started with the news that the British parliament has passed a bill that allows employers to offer shares to employees in exchange for giving up some employment rights. The mind boggles; not least because the same day another report stated that 93% of employees would “definitely consider leaving their current employment.” While the report does not appear directly to link the two, it attributes a huge decline in employee satisfaction to “a culture of fear.” In such a climate, even if 93% did not want to leave, you can hardly envisage employees rushing to give up their statutory rights, can you?

The rationale for employee ownership is to build employee engagement and the productivity improvement it unleashes. That, however, only happens when a degree of empowerment is part and parcel of the concept. This scheme not only lacks any empowerment, but is designed to diminish it. Why would any employee want to be a token share-holder if it comes at the price of giving up other important legal rights?

So whose bright idea was this? The scheme was apparently conceived by a Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) with very little work experience and who has spent the bulk of his working-life as a researcher, special adviser, speechwriter and strategist for the Conservative Party. So he may (perhaps) be forgiven for not understanding the rationale for employee ownership and the forces of employee engagement that unleashes. You would hope, however, there would be enough members of parliament with the experience, intelligence and conviction to kill the idea. Alas it seems not. So the nation falls into the pit!

As a business leader I would hope you would not blindly follow such a policy. However, you need to keep vigilant. A third report published the same day illustrates why. Hopefully this is just the result of poor editing and trying to keep things brief, because it by someone who, as Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the London Business School, should know better! He spells out 6 “essential moves” that a new CEO should take “if they want their strategy to stick.”

This completely misses the point that in order to successfully implement a strategy you have to ensure that it is not seen to be “your” strategy. You have to invoke a sense of shared values and common purpose to “change the environment.” It has to become “our strategy” in order to make it real and to succeed. Furthermore, the report also fails to distinguish between the CEO being new to the organisation or just the position. These are two different scenarios that could call for two very different approaches. In both, however, you need to get people on your side, and the best way to do this is to establish:-

  • What is their purpose;
  • What particular challenges and problems people are facing;
  • What solutions they propose and what they need to implement those solutions;
  • What help they need from you. 

In the process you need to make it very clear that it is a collaborative process and that you hate surprises because you cannot implement any strategy if you are not aware of any issue that could derail it! Consequently you will regard it in a very poor light if any problems come to light that they have not been honest and told you about.

You would do that, wouldn’t you? Then be grateful you are not blind and won’t be in any danger of following the blind. But as I said, this has not been a good week!

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