By Ali Nehme, chief strategy officer, Publicis Media Middle East
Accomplished business leaders often seem to have a more focused mind than ordinary people. Isn’t this partially why they got there? Typically the assumption is that they climbed that high because of their thinking and strategic skills, management skills, and so on. The reality is that these leaders were able to identify areas that gave them power inside the organization. Any corporate culture is top-down; the senior leadership style gives a good indication of an organization’s current focus and future direction.
Two main opposing cultures drive the wellbeing of such organizations: power of exclusion versus participation.
Power of exclusion
The focus in such an organization is to climb up the ladder by owning information that is crucial to the wellbeing of the organization. Personnel in security and military organizations tend to spend their careers in one place. In such industries, information there is key. It tends to be kept private and gets unlocked as you climb the ladder.
Exclusion focuses on hiding parts of the information or splitting it to avoid easy access and remain powerful. Understandably, this is part of such organizations’ core DNA, but is it the right model for organizations looking to innovate? Collaboration is key to innovation, and without a smooth flow of information, collaboration and thus innovation are hindered
Power of participation
The focus here is the opposite. To reach the organizations’ vision, it becomes key to foster and accelerate knowledge and participation – knowledge that is key to the growth and well-being of the organization. Technology companies like Google focus on maximizing their employees’ engagement levels. Such companies understand that motivating high performance and aligning that with business goals gets to the heart of what matters to the employees – in addition to compensation, organizational structure and overall well-being. When knowledge and performance are prioritized in a participation-led organization, not only does employee satisfaction start increasing, but also the contribution of the employees becomes more effective. Participation will help amplify the collective individual contribution.
The ultimate goal of performance management for any business leader is to attract and retain talented employees by keeping them fulfilled and enabling their growth. Key to all of this is transparency, something that contradicts supporting or allowing information withholding in any organization.
Looking at today’s new breed of CEOs; we started noticing their skills shift from general management and decision making to skills related to knowledge and being able to lead by example.
The implications on the workforce and well-being of the company are bigger than the struggling parties themselves.
There are three ways such struggle can affect the organization:
Direction of the organization
Having a company statement and vision that your employees are aligned with is crucial for any business growth. A disconnect between employees’ actions and the company’s vision can derail an organization. In organizations looking to innovate, knowledge sits at its core. Participation will tighten the alignment between the organization’s innovation agenda and the employees’ output. Exclusion, on the other hand, will only empower the top layer. Issues prevail, for example, between the board and the CEO when they are in disagreement and where the CEO owns the key to such information. New structures focus on decentralizing the power of information and focusing on ways to force participation.
Decision making in exclusive organizations takes longer and can never be straightforward. To reach a decision, you need to navigate around the decisions makers resulting in a slower process that is less business-focused. Participatory organization fosters collaborations and diverse opinions. Communicating important information widely and quickly becomes embedded in the blueprint of the organization, which means decisions makers have access to more information and decisions become less single-minded.
Every organization thrives on the drive and performance of its employees. Keeping this core asset content and motivated is what enables organizational growth and success. Leaders both manage and rely on their teams to drive these results. Employees in a participatory environment push themselves to their limits to improve their knowledge and are comfortable with sharing it and navigating freely inside the organization.
When employees begin to think that growth occurs by withholding information, they stop focusing on work and worry more about the politics and the struggle that comes with it. Most organizations want to grow their revenues. Growth is harder to achieve when you’re not getting the most of your employees. Information flow and participation is key to creating the right company culture. Nuances will always exist, but the priority should always remain to build long-term growth for your organization.