Ingaged leadership is a new way of leading, founded on the belief that if leaders create an organization where everyone works together in open partnership, that organization becomes vastly more successful.
Instead of telling people what to do, Ingaged leaders unlock the power of people’s minds, creativity and emotions. Some of the key skills of Ingaged leaders include:
1. Asking for help, because doing so is a sign of strength, not weakness.
2. Listening constantly and actively for nuggets of high value in what other people are saying and supporting the best of them.
3. Setting aside personal opinions about what will work and letting people try their most prized ideas.
How Can You Apply Ingaged Leadership throughout Your Organization?
Leading and supervising are two very different things. In fact, there are opportunities to practice Ingaged leadership at every level.
Ingaging with Trustees
When boards convene, many organizational leaders give them a report of company finances, introduce a few new hires, talk about new products – and that’s about it. Those practices represent disingagement, not Ingagement. Remember that members of your board were appointed because of extensive leadership experience, so invite them to share in open-ended discussions about long-term mission, marketplace trends, competitive issues, and more. One way to start that discussion is to talk openly about the long-term issues you and your company is facing. The more you share openly, the more you encourage board members to do the same.
Ingaging with Your Top Executive Team
To be honest, I have observed that top leadership teams in many companies are hindered by internal fissures and factions that are never discovered until someone quits or a major problem arises. Those problems often happen because executives have ambitions and plans that are being stifled by the company leaders, or because the rejection of their ideas in the past has caused them to self-censor.
The solution is to build a top management team that is positively disruptive. That means resisting the temptation to surround yourself with “yes people,” “people who are just like me” and people who prefer “group think” to shaking things up. Also, have the courage to recruit people who are genuinely better than you at doing certain things, and let them. Their efforts will free you and results will soar.
Ingaging with Middle Managers
The leaders of many organizations overlook the fact that middle managers possess the kind of reality-based, realistic and valuable intelligence that cannot be found anywhere else in house. Instead of hearing directly from middle managers, those company leaders hear about them from divisional heads or other upper-tier executives. That kind of filtering is a crippling mistake. In contrast, Ingaged leaders interact directly with members of middle management. Even in very large organizations like franchises, they create – and visit – advisory boards made up of mid-level managers, leadership councils and other forums where managers can speak and be heard.
Ingaging with Front-Line and Entry-Level Staff
Too many companies seem to apply classic “mushroom management” to employees at this level. (“Keep them in the dark and hope they grow.”) What a loss, since front-line employees have critical knowledge and ideas that should be captured and reinforced. In smaller organizations, instituting an open-door policy or visiting hours can help. In larger companies, virtual suggestion boxes on the company intranet have worked well. So have general meetings where employees brainstorm and suggest ideas that can be captured, responded to, and utilized.
Remember too that your company’s training programs offer a setting to invite and acknowledge new ideas from front-line staff. If you encourage your trainers to explore bigger company issues and invite ideas, you can begin to build high levels of Ingagement, literally from the bottom up.
Ingaging with Your Sales Team
Your salespeople know more than anyone else does about customers’ concerns, motivations to buy, opinions of your products, and much more. Yet many companies focus only on sales quotas and incentives, never soliciting salespeople’s insights. To tap this critical intelligence, invite salespeople to attend your top management meetings, listen actively to what they say, and then implement their solutions and new ideas. Another solution is to conduct brainstorming sessions during larger sales meetings, invite people to offer their best ideas, and then let them try them in the real world.
Still More Opportunities to Benefit from Ingagement
Ingaged leadership can be used to build more beneficial relationships with job applicants, clients, vendors, top executives at other companies, and many more people. The more you Ingage at every level, the greater you and your organization will become.