Leadership advice

A voice or a vote? Great leaders help teams exercise influence

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

I’ve heard the word “vote” so many times these days that it made me think of how that word plays out in the workplace.

Employees understand that workplaces are not necessarily democracies. People in management are empowered and obligated to make decisions. They involve strategy, personnel, policies, partnerships and budgets. Managers are expected to spend a good chunk of their time building business knowledge that helps them make good calls, informed by insights, data and experience – not just their gut. 

Staff members don’t always get (or even want) a vote in every organizational decision. 

But the best leaders know that even when employees don’t get a vote, they should have a voice. 

By that, I mean that effective managers listen. They tap people for ideas. When it’s not a trade secret or sensitive personnel matter, they test drive their plans with team members. They’re clear about why they’re having such conversations and how the input of the team will be used. 

That’s important. Because even among team members, there’s rarely monolithic thinking. There are often conflicting views and goals. The manager’s role is to understand those perspectives, analyze them, and incorporate that knowledge into decisions.

If they’re wise, they then explain their decision-making process to the team. Research says that even people who disagree with a decision are more likely to accept it when they believe the process behind it was fair. They only know that if decision-makers share it.

So managers, in the days to come, whenever you hear the word, “vote,” also remember the importance of that other word: voice.

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