Check out our Podcast!

Total: $0

Sort Articles:

X Clear Search Results

The Best Places to Work Part 2 of 5: Getting Things Done via Communications and Inclusion

Written by: Ralph Twombly
Published: December 2009

Last month we looked at Organizational Values and Leadership Modeling in the featured article of our monthly newsletter. If you didn't get a chance to look at that installment, we have a link to connect you here;

imageLast month's article was the first in a five part series to introduce you to the things learned from The Best Places to Work surveys that various States and private survey companies conduct for businesses each year. The winners of these awards each year are celebrated, published and benefit from the honor they receive in many ways including pride, morale, increased profitability and higher retention. Our work with some of these companies and the research we have conducted over the years brought us to the conclusion that you could do some work in your organization that would make it one of these preferred places. The five categories we identified were:

This month we examine Getting Things Done via Communications and Inclusion. It was clear to us that when employees believe senior managers and leadership at all levels have a good grip on the execution of the business, they sleep better at night. This implies that these leaders know what it takes to succeed, who the competitors are, and what we need to do to win against those competitors. Additionally, these leaders need to include people at the proper levels and communicate with each individual regarding what they can do to make the organization nimble, secure and successful. When these things are done well, the organization can mobilize its workforce in a way that gives it a significant edge in the marketplace.

What an organization can do today:

Create an Open-Systems Approach - An open-systems approach is one that includes people whenever possible in the decisions, conclusions, and strategies of the organization. These can be called steering groups, task forces, focus groups or any number of other titles. They all have the same goal to include the workforce in the decisions and execution of processes, products, and issues important to the organization. The open system takes time and it can be a bit awkward. The skills to conduct an open-systems meeting are very different. Selecting and caring for members become critical.

The advantages of an open system are numerous. We know that participation in the workplace is one of the leading motivators for people everywhere. People in the open-systems approach learn about the organization and what it takes to be successful in the marketplace. They become better team players and share the product of their open-systems work with others gaining critical support. In other words, they gain ownership for decisions and initiatives with an open approach.

The Enemy: The enemy of this category is the belief that people inside the organization don't know enough to help, don't care enough to be motivated and can't be trusted to do the right thing. In contrast to an open system is a closed system. In this system we leave these decisions, conclusions, and strategies to a few select deciders. The obvious advantages of a closed system are tighter controls on decisions, less chance for bad decisions, and speed. The closed system can take minutes when it takes hours to implement a good open-systems approach.

Prioritize Routine Communications Meetings - Polls suggest that people repeatedly say they want more information from their bosses, from each other, and to know about the world around them. This is mirrored in our need to watch the evening news in spite of the bevy of bad news. We are hungry for information and things to learn and, if information is not provided, people invent their own means of getting information. This can be done at the water cooler talk (the rumor mill) or through hearing it through the grapevine. In essence, if we don't fill the void of communicating information, people will find a way to fill the void.

Working at telling employees everything you know about the business, sharing good news, discussing threats, and giving positive feedback inevitably results in higher levels of innovation, trust, and curiosity.

The Enemy: The enemy of routine communication is the belief that to keep information from people will save them stress or that they cannot handle news. It will save stress short term but when they find out... In that same regard, NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX don’t seem to think that there is anything people can't handle. They are right.

Participative Understanding - In extremes participation can paralyze an organization or, on the other side of that, people can feel completely looped out. Many times people take on the task of involvement and don't understand what to do or how to handle the involvement responsibility as a facilitator or leader. The result can be disappointing and discouraging. The resulting water cooler talk can create a ground swell of negative feelings about the participative process and hamper future efforts. On the other hand, if it is handled well, it can be part of the ingrained fabric of an organization. See the example called, One Good Way to Include Employees. Understanding how to include your people makes the idea of participation a way of life. Some really quick ideas follow:

  1. Select people who have the courage of their convictions and who are loyal to the organization. Loyalty counts and is something that pays off in common ground for decisions.
  2. Choose people from diverse backgrounds. This doesn't only include the standard race, gender, age etc., What you are looking for are people from varying points of view. This can include managers, entry level people or senior people. All have to have one thing in common - the willingness to work together for a solution.
  3. Select people willing to take on the work of the group in addition to their normal work. This will assure you that you will get lots of energized folks ready to execute between meetings.
  4. Try to find leaders. Try not to select just managers or people of title but leaders or potential leaders. They will have opinions, influence and a voice that others will listen to.
  5. The first job of the group is to create a charter, goal, or vision. The group needs to be able to tell others what it is charged to do, when it is to be done, and by who.
  6. Keep meetings focused with agendas, timelines, and a form of recall like minutes or summaries. You will have a lot of information in advance and support in between.
  7. Keep the size of the group reasonable. Any facilitator will tell you that too small a group will result in too little influence and a lower quality of interaction leading to decisions. Plus small groups need to do twice the work individually as a larger group. Too large a group will be hard to facilitate and will draw on the resources of the organization.

What you as an individual can do today:

  • Take charge of your own education about the company - Start to prepare yourself today to be a better participant in the group process. To do this you need to understand what your organization does and why it does it. Learn everything you can about competitors, other industries, and look at all the new ideas you can find. You also need to build on your problem solving skills, be a better presenter and learn to articulate your thoughts clearly. This kind of development work will prepare you to join in a participative process and get the most from the experience.
  • Let people know what you want - Discuss with your boss that you want more of a participative role if one is available. This brings you to "front of mind" status with your boss and indicates that know you have a stronger contribution to make. Volunteering will make you a better team player and a stronger candidate for promotion.
  • Be a closer - The world loves closers. These are people who take on a task and finish the job. They know how to get things done and have the endurance to focus until they are successful. Closers are not all that common and the better you get at it the more value you will find you have to your organization.


Next month we will take a hard look at Leadership through people listening and success and again give you our very best ideas. If you have ideas of your own, please send them along. We will include them in the article.

Ralph Twombly

Ralph Twombly

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.