Q: My company has just undergone a painful phase of cost cutting and restructuring in order to keep it afloat.
In the process, we lost a number of people whom we had to ask them to go. The rest who are still here are somewhat shocked and unsettled with what they have seen happen. I know life in the organisation is going to be different now. What has also happened is the owners have promoted me as the new head of department. This is a huge load on me now as I have to rebuild the whole organisation again. I am thinking of lots of things to do and not to do. What do you think I should be doing now?
A: What you want to see is that everyone has the past behind them and is now directing their energy towards a new chapter in the organisation’s future. This usually means going into the area where your organisation wants to participate and charting the pathway to get there.
The Bottom Line: The logical place to begin is to set a clear vision with pragmatic strategies on how to get there. This is best done when you have completed your research to know what the current and future opportunities are and the challenges. Take for instance if you want your organisation to be a high-quality player in the field of cosmetics that caters to the younger generation – 20-30 years old. The opportunity that exists is probably a huge market of potential users but the challenges could be the short span of interest in them as they are fickle and adventurous and always want something new all the time. So, this may imply that your organisation will have to be constantly innovating for new or improved products that excite this generation of users. Once this is clear, then all the energy is united to deliver on this objective. Doing this will ensure that everyone and every process is aligned to achieve this common objective.
Powerful Questions: What made it necessary for your organisation to undertake the recent restructuring? What lessons did you learn from this exercise? How can this be converted into a new vision for the organisation? What is the common area for everyone to be united in doing?
DISCERNING WHAT CONSENSUS MANAGEMENT REALLY IS
Q: I believe in “consensus management”, which to me means not making any decision alone but involving all the stakeholders. Complying with this principle, I have been passing many of the decisions, which have been entrusted to me by my key managers who are part of the executive committee. Together, they study the situation and thereafter, they jointly make the decision. I personally feel this is true democracy at work, which is much aligned to my value of not discriminating against anyone. However, I am now at loggerheads with my boss who thinks I am irresponsible and not committed when I do it this way. He wants me to play a more active (rather than a passive) role in decision-making. When I asked him whether he wanted me to be more autocratic, he said no. I am confused (and angry, too) as is he suggesting that I interfere in the work of others? Can you give your views on this?
A: Obviously, your boss is jumping into the picture now as results are not turning out the way he wants them to. Try putting yourself in your boss’ shoes to understand why he feels this way. Some of these feelings could be: You are a weak leader who dare not lead from the front but rather from behind or you are safeguarding your position as you can push the blame on the others. All in all, your boss feels that as a leader you can be totally democratic in a decentralised way of decision-making. To him, you need to be in the picture, guiding them but eventually you make the decision.
The Bottom Line: Actually I am a “cautious” believer in consensus management. While small ones are fine, bigger ones have to be made by the leader. Of course, we have to consider every viewpoint but ultimately, it is the leader who makes it. The followers then learn from the leader as to how they arrived at the decision. Over time, these followers grow in confidence and thinking ability and gradually, they can make bigger and bigger decisions. Total consensus management must be carefully considered as it may not work in all situations. The best argument for consensus management is it brings harmony among the people. But does it really or it is only “skin deep”, for having smiles and no quarrels do not equate to high performance and desired results. In many cases that I know, the respect for the leader diminishes because the followers expect greater guidance and support rather than be thrown in the deep end. At the end of the day, followers want a leader who can lead, who can show them the way, who can coach them to be both confident and capable and who is also a strong critic and dares to challenge them to be better than what they think is their best.
What are the interests of your people and your stakeholders that you have to consider holistically? What does that tell about what you ought to do? How can you let go without letting off? What will please all parties, including you?
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