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The East African : Apr 13th 2015
The EastAfrican 38 BUSINESS APRIL 11-17,2015 MANAG E R A case fo≥ mo≥e t≥anspa≥ency to you≥ employees at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Ms Nooyi talked about characteristics of effective leaders, among them the importance of having strong communication skills and being transparent to employees. Lack of good communication R is probably one of the major reasons why there are morale or voluntary turnover problems in an organisation. Talk to any leader or employee and you will discover a disconnect between what leaders think they are communicating and what employees say they are hearing. What do we mean by trans- parent leadership? Essentially, it means there is clear and consistent communication and a commitment to creating an open, honest, candid workplace with trust at the core of the culture. If employees don’t know what is happening around them, they have the tendency to misunderstand or misread the leaders’ intentions and possibly think the worst. Rumours take the place of facts. As authors Gostick and Elton noted in their book All in: How the best managers create a culture of belief and drive big results, “People inevitably build a backstory for leadership decisions, and whether they trust you or not is the most significant determiner of whether that story will be positive or negative. In the workplace, only 36 per cent of employees believe their leaders operate with integrity and honesty. And the number one reason employees say they act unethically is because their boss models that behaviour for them.” When a firm does not have trust or transparency, not only ecently, we had the pleasure of hosting Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo are there employee problems (low morale, productivity, commitment and loyalty), but also employees will undoubtedly pass that along to their clients or customers by treating them poorly. On the other hand, firms with a transparent culture are more successful since employees feel free to come up with more creative solutions, they share issues before they become major problems, and they are more engaged, motivated, and productive at work. So, what can leaders do to en- sure there is effective communication in the organisation? Help employees see the larger picture of what is happening in the organisation. If you share information with your managers, make sure they are also sharing the information with their employees. Leaders often think that information is being cascaded down, but then discover that employees never got the message or got something else entirely. Usually they discover this when employees bring up complaints about not knowing what is going on. To be effective at cascading communications, leaders need to make sure that everyone leaves a meeting knowing exactly what they will tell their people, and those managers need to communicate the message in a timely manner, preferably face to face. Make sure all senior leaders are “on board” with a message. If they aren’t, there will be inconsistencies in how things are being communicated to employees. Meet directly with employees on a quarterly basis to address any gaps in communication. Ask for their input as well. Now, more than ever before, employ- COMMENTARY JOYCE E.A. RUSSELL “CEOs set the tone and priorities for their organisations; therefore, it is important to understand what they interpret as their major challenges and opportunities” ees want to actually see leaders so they can read their non-verbal expressions when they share news. Not only are they looking for the facts; but also how sincere the leader is. Use a weekly e-mail newslet- ter or another similar mechanism to share information with all employees so they are hearing it directly from the top. Communicate the message over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Lencioni, author of The advantage: Why organisational health trumps everything else in business, says employees won’t believe what they have heard unless it is consistently repeated seven times. Yet, as he notes, leaders often only share their message once, assuming people will get it the first time or they will get insulted if you keep repeating the message. But often employees don’t get it; hence leaders need to become “chief reminding officers” and keep repeating their message in different situations so that employees can emotionally internalise the message. Or, they need to also have other leaders share the same message so employees hear the same thing from multiple sources. When sharing information with managers, prepare them to address tough questions from employees. Otherwise, they may offer glib responses such as, “That’s the way it is; the boss said so;” which can really damage trust in senior leaders. Set up upward channels of communication. Periodically collect feedback from employees through focus groups, surveys, etc to learn what’s on their minds. Make sure they are able to share this feedback in a confidential and anonymous way. As issues are being raised, make sure to note these so you can come back to addressing them later to show how you are handling them. Be consistent in the messag- es you are sharing with different audiences. Follow through on commit- ments you make. This builds trust with employees. Involve employees in the deci- sions that affect them. Have them be part of the decision-making if possible. Face the facts head-on even if the facts will be tough to hear. Suppose you have budget cuts, it is better for employees to hear it directly from the leader than to hear it from rumours. Admit when you are wrong and apologise when you make mistakes. No one is perfect and employees will appreciate your honesty. Keep employees posted when news comes in, whether good or poor. Creating a transparent culture is not easy, and it needs to be something that is continually worked on by all of us. This will go a long way to ensuring that there is transparent communication at the organisation. Russell is the vice dean at the Robe≥t H. Smith School of Business and di≥ecto≥ of its Executive Coaching and Leade≥ship Development P≥og≥amme Connect invento≥s with the ≥ight p≥oblems and eve≥yone wins By JAY WALKER and ROBERT LITAN Harvard Business School Publishing Corp THE RISE of today’s “sharing economy” teaches us that when underused assets are more fully exploited, everyone can win. Whether it’s a car, a private jet or the guest room in a suburban home, more intense asset utilisation benefits both consumer and supplier: The fractional buyer gets cheaper and often more convenient services, while many asset-owners make money in ways they never expected. We suspect that there also lots of innova- tion assets in economies that are being seriously underused. Firms constantly invest in processes of discovery and come up with in- novations that others could put to productive use. Inventive people have ideas and are often able to develop them to the point of patenting, but they lack the resources to make the world aware of their breakthroughs. The key to making assets more produc- tive is a powerful information technology platform, with software capable of sifting through large warehouses of data — increasingly, the unstructured information coming from multiple sources known as Big Data. A good platform enables potential users and suppliers of assets to discover each other and do business. This is the capability that has been lacking in the innovation asset space. Now, “open innovation” platforms are con- necting “seekers” of inventive answers to their problems with “solvers” who could be anywhere on the planet. Specialised search engines for conducting business-relevant searches of patent databases and the technical literature are now coming online. The users and owners of innovation assets are finding, as they use these new tools, that their capabilities and horizons are expanding, greatly and continuously. What difference could it make to get fuller use out of existing innovation assets? To the firm using the asset, potentially the difference between life and death. Businesses face a constant challenge to stay ahead of their competitors by making or delivering existing products and services cheaper, faster and better, or developing entirely new ones. It’s frequently said in business that a company must “innovate or die.” We’d say the aphorism already needs up- dating: Today, firms must “get good at networked innovation or die.” They must look beyond their corporate silos for ideas to license, experts to consult, and partnerships to form in joint ventures. Meanwhile, higher utilisation of innova- tion assets will prove an indisputably good thing for the economy. But these challenges become a lot more manageable when the economic pie is growing rapidly. For that optimistic outcome to become a reality, innovation will have to pick up its pace.
Apr 6th 2015
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