This post originally ran on Inc.com, where Rocketrip’s CEO Dan Ruch has a regular column on travel, technology, and entrepreneurship.
Scandals. Accusing headlines. Public uproar. Decreasing perception. We've seen what happens when CEOs get called out for their errors.
The root of these emerging upper management issues that have plagued companies from Uber to Samsung is that they never created a culture that empowered employees and instead silenced them with fear and toxicity. This noxious environment incubates when arrogance and ego get in the way of humility and progression.
Management style is endemic to employee empowerment (or lack of it); when upper management provides an environment that champions honest communication and continuous feedback, companies see much more invested employees.
One way to create a culture of empowerment is to give everyone, from the office manager to director, the same voice and recognition in an organization. Fifty-eight percent of employees say that leaders could do more to improve engagement by giving recognition. And size of a company doesn't matter; organizations from two employees to 2,000 should encourage dialogue.
Giving employees the power to speak up and own their roles tends to decrease levels of frustration while increasing productivity and efficiency.
One way to foster an environment of trust and creativity is keeping an open door policy. Encourage open communication and keep your ears open to suggestions of changing the status quo. This is the simplest, yet most powerful, way to drive a company forward. Some of the best strategic moves we've made at Rocketrip, in the way we build and market our product, have come from one-on-one coffee chats with everyone in the office. Thirty minutes with an employee gives good insight into your own management style. This is the time to find out how your employees feel about the culture you represent and nurture, and it's also the perfect time to identify any blind spots you might be harboring.
I discovered this when I asked a sales associate about the way we were selling our product.
Hint: he said there was room for improvement. He explained precisely how our strategy was flawed, and I listened because he's on the front-lines dealing with customers. His answers helped steer the course for the way we do business now. It's incredible what you'll hear when you ask an employee, "What can we improve?" They'll more likely than not give you gold, and this especially rings true when it comes to critical areas of your business.
Good questions to steer the conversation include, "What tactics work and which don't?" "How do we position this to a client?" "Where are we getting caught up in the sales process?" and "What have we implemented that is hurting us?"
Put simply, this "seat at the table" mentality is the only way to steer your company forward today while remaining on the critical path.
When it comes to work at an organization that's growing, they say "if it's not broken don't fix it," but this isn't the right practice for business, because in many cases, having your employees challenge you is the most proactive thing you can do. Telling your employees to be honest is one thing, but empowering them to speak up is another.
Culturally speaking, you can't fake it. This operational mentality has to start from the top-down, and it must be genuine. Every employee in a company should feel like an owner, because equity matters -- both financially and symbolically.
In order for this to work and be a virtuous cycle, you have to ask for bold ideas. They're not all going to be earth shattering a-ha moments, but counter that by explaining the direction you're heading in. Transparency is your ticket, as giving insights optimizes the chances of employee feedback being relevant.
The next step is action. Action can mean, "We hear what you're saying, but we don't feel that way because of these following reasons," or "This is valuable feedback, and we have the opportunity to fix this issue." CEOs then have the power to put the wheels in motion to make the change, but it's even more empowering to inspire the employee to help drive that modification.
It's obvious that no company has only good news all of the time; lose the fear of sharing bad news with your team. When employees aren't clued-in to the inner-workings of a company, they feel like they're being misled by leadership.
Let's remove the rose-tinted glasses. If we expect them to be vulnerable and brutally honest with us, we should honor that. Telling employees news fosters creativity, risk-taking, productivity, and trust. And if you don't trust your employees? You probably hired the wrong ones.
Lend an ear. You'll be surprised to find out the supply of brilliant ideas you're sitting on.