Peter Drucker, the famed business consultant, coined the phrase “knowledge worker” in 1959. He contended that highly educated workers would not be content or motivated simply by following orders or instructions. Drucker’s teaching still resonates today: spend any time in the business section of a bookstore and you will see scores of books about how to motivate your team and achieve buy-in.
It’s not that leaders want to be dictators, but rather that they often lack the training needed to build more engaged teams. Here are three ways to get you on the road to success in this area:
Create a “We Decide” Culture
Author Caroline Rowan identifies three decision styles in organizations:
- Boss decides
- Individual decides
- We decide
Sometimes a leader must take swift action and make arbitrary decisions; however, doing so too often will alienate the team. On the other hand, an organization with little leadership, where each person is acting as their own department head, will also have a hard time getting team buy-in. Rowan advises leaders to focus on creating Win-Win goals for the company and the employee that incentivize both parties to support the success of the initiative.
Know Your Team
In today’s time-starved work environment, we often fail to make the effort to get to know colleagues and those who work in our teams. This can lead to challenges when it comes time to get buy-in for a project. For example, you need the team to stay late to finish a major task so you offer to treat everyone to dinner. The offer is not enthusiastically received: had you known that key players on your team need to get home to their children, you might have chosen another strategy.
Be Fair and Consistent
Leaders are under tremendous pressure to be perceived as fair and treating individuals equally. This is virtually impossible because no two people are alike, and each has varying needs. Rowan gives the following example: Imagine you have a seasoned executive who wants to work from home a few days a week; and then a newer employee, who needs more supervision, asks for the same consideration. Do you say no to both to be seen as treating everyone fairly?
A good leader must be flexible, yet consistent when making decisions. Well-defined standards for decision-making that are clearly communicated to the team will go a long way toward maintaining team engagement. Invest the time to consider the needs of the individual and the organization. A transparent and consistent decision-making process will help you build teams that are engaged and provide the foundation for the buy-in essential to success.
 Drucker, Peter (1957). Landmarks of Tomorrow. New York: Harper & Row. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-56000-622-0
 Caroline Rowan author of “Results Centred Leadership”, available through The Achievement Centre