Remove the Hierarchy in Your Organisation
If someone’s sitting on the throne while your organisation moves backward, maybe it’s time to let someone sit in the driver's seat; even just for a moment...
I’m not talking about snatching the throne from its rightful owner, or an abdication, what I mean by this is to realise that organisations are built upon the people inside, and this should be taken into account on a daily basis when you’re making decisions for the organisation as a whole.
The title might be a bit misleading in the way that you’re not expected to give up - or allow someone else to usurp the throne - for good, rather, you want to encourage a culture in your organisation that makes employees feel as though there’s no structural obstacles to overcome in pitching a great idea. More often than not, the larger an organisation becomes, the less flexible they become in terms of letting all their employees to pitch new ideas that could potentially lead to a profound innovation, or allow the organisation to pivot its direction in order to avoid being disrupted by a competitor or market change.
In a management review or strategic planning session, it’s essential that your organisation exhibits a culture that allows potentially anyone in the team to figuratively ‘snatch the throne’ for a few brief minutes when pitching an idea. Typically the more rigid the organisation, the less input and feedback they accept from people lower down in the food chain, and from personal experience, this has led many organisations to have tunnel vision that leaves out essential pieces of the puzzle when putting together their plan for the months and years to come.
‘Some leaders feel believe the organisation will stagnate without them- the best ones know this simply isn’t true.’ - Kobi Simmat.
The most effective organisations I’ve worked with have encouraged everyone in the organisation to collaborate and give their input, or at the very least, provide a platform where an employee can potentially raise their hand in the future. In the absence of this certain type of culture, an organisation is essentially hindering its own changes of success. In the face of big egos, this can be a challenge, but for those organisations that are willing to put their ego to the side in the interests of the organisation, there’s a raft of benefits in store.
Let’s move on to talk about some key areas surrounding this concept, as well as the benefits of breaking down the hierarchy inside your organisation.
I’d like to preface these points with the fact that a hierarchy is, of course, an essential part of doing business with its inherent built-in accountabilities, but it’s also worth mentioning that it shouldn’t be the only way you go about making important decisions in your organisation.
Innovation through Empowerment
Researchers have long-recognised the importance of empowerment in the workplace. Countless papers have been published linking increased productivity - as well as the psychological benefits - of empowered members of staff, yet from personal experience, too few organisations properly recognise the importance of it in their own operations.
The moment that you remove the structural rigidity of your organisation, your staff will pick up on this, and feel as though the removal of boundaries has been made to encourage efforts directed at innovation and implementing changes in the best interests of the organisation.
This leads to what researchers call a safe place for emotional intelligence to bloom, and it’s one of the clearest indicators that an organisation isn’t sabotaging itself from the inside out with rigid hierarchical structures that inhibit innovation. If it weren’t for the boots on the ground, as I often call them, management teams would be ill-informed when making important changes for the organisation. So, in order to properly capitalise on this, leaders need to empower every member of their staff- regardless of their position.
On a personal note, I ask my staff to read as much as they can, or take courses - even if it’s on company time - that will improve their standing as a professional. I’d like to think that they’ll pay this forward in the form of increased productivity at work, but at the very least, they’ll be more psychologically up for the task thanks to their learning.
Collaboration, not delegation.
Something that has become particularly clear for me as I’ve familiarised myself with - and implemented the concept - of appreciative inquiry is that some of the most impactful change you can make in an organisation comes from authentic interactions with your staff. On a similar note to what we just covered about empowering your staff, if your organisation sees the value in getting members of the team to collaborate on different projects, you’re more likely to see these projects deliver exceptional results. When this is put into practice properly, your management team should be prepared to collaborate, not just dictate or delegate tasks. You want everyone in the organisation to feel as though they can ask any question they need, without being at risk of feeling inadequate or stupid for asking the question in the first place.
Leaders, I believe should be the last person in the room to give their opinion on something. This is more often than not the exact opposite of how things transpire in meeting rooms, but i’ll explain myself regardless. If the leader is the first to open their mouth when it comes to talking about a project or pitching a solution, they essentially spoil the objectivity of the group who will more than likely fall into line with the leader’s beliefs. No one wants to feel like an outlier- human beings are social creatures that yearn for that sense of belonging, and therefore, even if they’re sitting on an idea they believe to be effective, they might suffer in silence and not air their opinion in order to stay in line with the group.
This is what you don’t want to encourage in your organisation’s culture. In essence, you want to open up the throne to anyone in your organisation for them to solve a problem, or step outside the bounds of their role and address a new problem, propose a new innovation or way to avoid being disrupted by a competitor. A transformative leader recognises the importance of this, and by definition, transform their model of leadership in the organisation to a point where they can adapt to new ways of doing business.
The more effort you can put into adapting your leadership style, or the openness of your management team’s approach to decision making or problem solving, the more you’ll be rewarded by staff ‘stepping up’ to the task, and hopefully, exceeding your expectations in their ability to think outside the box. This is more often than not a point of contention amongst leaders, but from my experience, is a testament to what separates ordinary organisations from extraordinary ones.
Don’t be afraid to open up the throne to someone else in your organisation- breaking down the hierarchies encourages everyone there to excel at their jobs, and exceed the expectations of your management team and subsequently, your customers.