Strengthening Hierarchy from the Bottom Up

Al Gorman Managing 1 Comment

The challenge with hierarchy is balancing position power with inclusion.

We’ve been on an “Engagement Journey” for quite a while, one that is aimed at imparting cultural change and resulting in a highly engaged workforce. We might even conclude that although imperfect, many of the right things are being done. Engagement is being built with managerial systems. There are no serious pitfalls in terms of manager/ subordinate relationships, and having individuals who are big enough for their roles. A few in fact are too big for their assignments and one would conclude that this would speed the change process up; and perhaps it has. Role descriptions are being formulated in order to specify accountabilities and authorities for cross-functional working relationships. By any account many positive steps are in motion.

Engagement is progressing but slow. There are a couple of fundamental ingredients that could be shored up and any observations and feedback are certainly welcome. I will make one significant observation within the final paragraph.

I have a hunch that the organization cannot feel the vision, and if it could it is skeptical because there is a history in the organization (a unionized publicly traded company) of mistrust, built out of a sequence of labour disputes and poor management/ employee and management/ union relationships. The task as you will appreciate is no easy feat!

The “EUREKA” this past week was in terms of employee engagement. Of course any requisite disciple would quickly ask “what is engagement”. For the moment we will define it as the full contribution each employee has to offer, one that we wish to have offered fully and willingly, eminating from the individuals’ minds and hearts. Within the backdrop we might simply declare “good luck”. Nonetheless, the fundamental missing has been as simple as management telling each employee first that they need to get engaged and then how he or she should become engaged.

Rudimentary problem…simple solution, right? Of course applying managerial practices effectively is a critical component in building alignment and mutual trust. It does not however teach managers how to communicate, and most critical to communication… how to listen. So the complexity of management has been reduced to generous listening skills. With this new found discovery we’re away. And, we’re away with no illusion that the current task is an easy one. Imparting effective communication within an organization is not only essential, it is requisite.

Comments 1

  1. Have you seen Stan Smith’s merger of Jaques and Senge over at Sustainable Organization? (He’s in the blogroll in the sidebar.) He has a pretty good definition of engagement. It may not be on the site: I’ve been talking with him.

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