Do you know why party games are so popular?
Do you know why people like shows like American Idol?
Do you know people enjoy Social Media?
People like to gather, enjoy each other and co-create. People want to get and be involved in things they care about. They enjoy participating. If you aren’t going to participate, why be there at all. Isn’t it amazing that in the one place we should be encouraged to participate, our jobs and careers, often the invitation isn’t there. So it begs the question: Why don’t more leaders encourage participation among their followers and staff? Here are some possible reasons.
Some leaders are just flat out afraid to encourage participation. Why? Couple of things:
Fear of not having all the “right answers” if questions come up
Fear of not looking “smart”
Fear of giving off the perception of non-competence
Fear of being “upstaged” by a subordinate
After all, aren’t leaders supposed to have all the answers? Guess what? No one person ever has all the answers to anything. No person can ever accomplish anything significant without help. Fear stagnates and causes leaders to not engage their team for participation because they fear of looking out of control and incompetent.
I really believe no person can be an effective leader without some ego. Some. Not overboard and self-centered. Self-aware and self-confident. Some leaders will not encourage participation because the ideas may challenge their current philosophy. Some leaders will not encourage participation because they can’t provide the answers to justify their current position. Some leaders are just not open to changing their minds. Some leaders are caught in their industry’s trap and can’t figure out how to escape and who could know more than them about their industry?
Some leaders believe in organizational charts to the point that if you are not in a certain box on the chart, you can’t possibly contribute. Rather than tearing down barriers and boundries, some leaders actually re-enforce them killing any chance of cross-functional teamwork in the organization. Leaders who have territorialism issues are typically very power-position centered in their leadership with a stern top down viewpoint of how things should flow in the structure.
In order to feel included and participatory, followers need to have some authority invested in them for making some decisions and to be able to easily co-create with other team members. Instead of having heavy positional power hovering over their heads, they need to be endowed with the ability to have discretion to connect with others who want to participate as well.
Help for leaders:
Learn to value diversity of thought and approach. Learn to value people with different backgrounds.
Start to actively listen and be proactive to include, not exclude
Learn to admit to not knowing all the answers and start inviting others into conversations about how to solve problems or grow the organization
Get comfortable in your thinking about giving followers the ability to co-create with other people throughout the organization
Help for your followers:
Start asking others to take the lead on some things, trust and believe they will succeed
Create a culture and environment where you and your people work through issues together
Don’t be afraid to talk with your people and let them know you don’t have everything figured out and you need help like anyone else.
Have a lot of “work in progress” conversations with status updates. Ask a lot of open-ended questions and don’t overpower with your own answers.
Don’t give answers, rather offer ideas and participate as you are asking them to do.