The joy of an industrial ageThe period when humans developed large complex organizations based on machines. Factories, assembly lines, plantations, and railroads were dominant during the Industrial Age. The Industrial Age organizational design was optimized to use humans to reduce variability and comply with their masters’ instructions. This fundamental structure shapes our organizational design and language today. organization is that we separated the doers from the deciders. If you were a decider (also known as a boss, leader, white-collar, salaried person) then you made decisions for what the doers (also know as followers, blue-collar, hourly person) ought to do.
Since the workforce was not involved in decision making the deciders didn’t need to care about their emotional health. Instead, we actively avoided connections across the hierarchy because that would complicate the ability of the deciders to tell the doers what to do. The entire idea of a sterile workplace, devoid of emotions and any hint of humanity, was based on a structure where decisions were not part of the job.
Now, that has all changed. We want the doers to be the deciders. If we are starting out and we are doing the work, we want to be able to make decisions about the work. It’s better for us, it’s better for the leaders and it’s better for the organization. But decisions — whether the decision to speak up in a meeting, to suggest an improvement to a process we helped design ourselves, or a low probability of success but potentially high payoff plan — require emotions and that is the lesson of the patient ElliotThe name assigned to the patient operated on by Dr. Damasio with a brain tumor. Patient Elliot lost all emotions and the ability to make decisions. Patient Elliot, and other cases, demonstrate the intimate link between emotions and decision making. story.
So, in order to involve more people in decision making we need to care about the emotional health of people. That means connecting with them as humans. What do they want in life? For themselves. For their families. Do you know? If not, find out. ConnectThe enabling play that makes all the other plays more effective. Connect is caring for others and leveling the power gradient. Connect means viewing yourself as doing WITH, not TO or FOR. with people, allow them to be human, model vulnerability if you are asking them to be vulnerable. (If you are asking them to make decisions then you are asking them to be vulnerable.)
You’ll find greater participation, more distributed decision making and a happier and more productive team.
Learn more by watching this Nudge: Leadership Nudge® 314 – Patient Elliott