Besides knowing when to have team participation, knowing how to carry it out is just as important. Here are a few steps that you may find useful to get the team together.
Effective Team Participation
1) Get the Ball Rolling
Some workers will by default choose to participate. Others need to be nudged before they realize that you appreciate more involvement from them. To start extracting suggestions and opinions from your fellow team members, try to be suggestive. Rather than saying “How are you going to solve this problem?” try “I’ve been thinking about [problem]; any ideas?” The subtler you get the better. Give them time to get back to you. The reasoning is that you want to reduce the pressure on them so they will feel obliged to participate.
Take the suggestions they give, use it, and tell them why you found the suggestion helpful. This way they are inclined to continue communicating ideas to you. Of course, when it comes to simpler or more technical questions, goading the answer out of them is pretty redundant: Just make it a direct question.
2) Tell, Sell, Consult, and Participate: Choose Wisely
Tannenbaum and Schmidt had an interesting model for leadership that closely relates to team participation. There were four degrees of participation. ‘Tell’ is when leaders make all the decision and merely delegate the actual work. Use of such a method is more of a question of whether to have team participation or not. ‘Sell’ is somewhat like ‘Tell’ except the leader attempts to convince followers that the decision made is ideal.
Of greater importance is the distinction between ‘Consult’ and ‘Participate’. If a leader chooses the degree of ‘Consult’, he/she still makes the decision in the end, but after fellow team members have given their input and suggestions. In ‘Participate’, clear end-goal objectives are given but all the other nitty-gritty decisions are left in the hands of the team members.
The key idea here is to choose which degree of team participation is best for your project. Sometimes team participation is a good thing, but too much dilutes the focus of the workplace. The ‘Consult’ degree is suitable when you have fairly competent team members but a strong hand of guidance is still necessary. Risky projects are also better left to this degree. ‘Participation’ is ideal when team members are experienced and competent, and when a bit of freedom will not bring about too much of a risk.
3) Set a Clear Direction
Without a clear direction, don’t expect too much from your workers. As a leader, outline exactly what is needed or what is the problem at hand. Doing so in a suggestive manner is preferable, but make sure your followers know what they are trying to achieve in the end. By doing so, they can keep their suggestions relevant to what is needed. In some cases, a leader can choose to set a clear direction, and then let the follower do whatever is necessary to achieve the end goal. This way, they participate at a great degree, where most decisions are made by them and not the leader. This has the benefit of being convenient for the leader while fostering creative and independent thought.
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