What does any organisation need at this hour? A team that is proactive, self-sufficient and tries to come up with solutions more often than problems.
Many industry practitioners feel the fault lies with the leadership and organisational culture, and not the team.
Nishant Madhukar, CHRO, Ferns and Petals, says, “If the employees come up with problems more often than solutions, it implies that the organisation follows a very centralised culture, where managers and leaders take most of the calls and it is believed that the solution to any problem has to come from leaders or managers only.”
What good leaders do is, take inputs from employees, discuss the pros n cons with the team, and then take a joint decision
Employees resist the urge to speak up when they are not recognised for sharing something of value, and discouraged for saying it all wrong. When such a practice becomes frequent, employees tend to play it safe and bow their heads, preferring to say or do nothing. As a result, problems multiply, worker morale sinks and customers leave.
Jacob Peter, CHRO, Sterling Holiday Resorts, concurs, “When employees aren’t able to take responsibility or provide solutions, then the problem lies in the company’s approach, which is unable to give them space to explore. It has more to do with the culture.”
The kind of leadership practices an organisation follows also defines the workplace culture.
“If the leader is fairly authoritative, autocratic, and tends to take the calls all the time, then employee begin to see him/her as a solution giver,” explains, Venkataramana B, group president – HR, Landmark Group.
When there is a lack of inclusion, employees miss the bird’s eye view at an organisational level. This further restricts them from thinking from the perspective of a solution-focused setup
The solution to this problem lies in an inclusive culture, where employees are made to feel confident that their solutions will be heard and pondered upon. They are empowered to take certain calls at their end.
Organisations also need to remember that employees can only come up with solutions if they are well acquainted with the problems and are able to look at it in depth.
“The empowerment to take decisions will only come when the management includes them in the problematic discussions, and explain the crisis to them in detail. This will ensure that they do not look at the issues in silos,” elucidates Madhukar.
“When there is a lack of inclusion, employees miss the bird’s eye view at an organisational level. This further restricts them from thinking from the perspective of a solution-focused setup,” adds Madhukar.
In an inclusive organisation, the employees are not only empowered, but also delegated responsibility and held accountable. In such cases, employees will try to fetch solutions themselves. “What good leaders do is, take inputs from employees, discuss the pros n cons with the team, and then take a joint decision,” says Venkataramana.
It is dangerous to have an entire task force being enslaved by the management, with no strategies in mind. It is the responsibility of the high and mid-level leadership, to inculcate and encourage strategic thinking amongst the employees at the base level.
When employees aren’t able to take responsibility or provide solutions, then the problem lies in the company’s approach, which is unable to give them space to explore. It has more to do with the culture
Venkataramana also believes that the answer lies in constant learning and mutual trust. “Only then will people start taking risks and come up with alternate solutions. One needs space to be heard,” he says.
The leadership team also needs to enhance its risk tolerance. A leader may empower or delegate responsibilities to the team, but if she/he isn’t risk tolerant, the employees will not feel confident about thinking out of the box for a specific problem,” shares Madhukar.
Solutions-focused cultures start with leaders who identify clear strategic priorities, ask intentionally, and respond well to the ideas they receive. Over time, these repeated leadership behaviours will shift the culture from one of safe silence to one of consistent contribution. This can give organisations a distinct competitive advantage over others where the best ideas from the employees remain undiscovered.