By Katie Howells
Collaborative working isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact the 2011 release of ‘Managing for Dummies’ claimed it to be one of the most important leadership factors, writing, “Make sure all team members have influence by involving them in the decision-making”. Why is it then, that 6 years later, the UK still aren’t listening?Ranked 26th out of 27 EU member states, companies in our country are lagging far behind in the European Participation Index, a catalogue which measures worker participation at board level, shop floor and in collective bargaining. With such a low position we could be leading our people into disaster.

The benefits to allowing employees the chance to speak up have been espoused for years now, from shared culpability to increased loyalty, any initial teething problems associated with inclusivity are increasingly overshadowed by benefits. And yet many of our long-standing companies are yet to move into the present, with General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, stating that recent political changes could mean keeping decisions close to our chest could become more of a problem over the coming years.

The short-sighted approach is stifling productivity, as we head towards Brexit.

A recent survey conducted by TUC suggests that team members are eager to become more involved in their companies decision making process, however the majority of participants claim any suggestions they’ve made have been ignored by management, with 41% of workers saying all big decisions are driven through without any consultation at all.

Recent research puts this down to the continued use of ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ teams, a term coined by opponents of President Andrew Jackson, to describe his use of ‘unofficial advisors’. These unofficial advisors tend to be close confidantes of the CEO, with Bob Frisch, Managing Partner of Strategic Offsites Group, giving examples that include Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger for Berkshire Hathaway and Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer for Microsoft.

Frisch claims that these groups often overshadow any official decision panels put in place, with CEO’s and their buddies already having made the decision long before it comes into debate.

What looks like a group decision is often merely ritualistic approval.

Employing these anonymous groups, rather than casting the net further could be stifling our creativity, allowing senior team members to cherry pick opinions they know will further their own arguments, ignoring any who might force the motion into debate.

Crisp company, Fritos saw the true benefit in allowing all team members a voice, when an idea ex-Janitor, Richard Montanez, brought to them became their top selling product. Inspired by a speech his employer made about every member of staff acting like the boss, Montanez decided to pitch his idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, earning himself a top-level Executive role.

Montanez’s story brings home how important engaging our staff is, allowing them to feel their voices are heard. Creating a system in which any ideas can be brought forward, regardless of current position is essential and something we’ve embraced with open arms here at Goodman Masson. Giving all employees not just the ability but the incentive to throw forward ideas for the workplace, through The Experience, our options for success have increased by 150 voices.

“Leading people successfully in this new world requires a new paradigm- collaborative leadership.” – Sandy Richardson

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