Monday, March 25, 2002

The Success Coach

End dictatorship with democratic ideas

By Michael Crom
Gannett News Service

        Question: My utilities company has undergone massive changes in recent years. In addition to industry deregulation, we have engaged in several mergers during the past three years.

        Although things are finally settling down, the high employee turnover still lingers. My human resources manager claims that employees do not agree with the dictatorial management style of our company. As the vice president, I have never experienced corporate mergers before and do not know how to “transition” a company to become more worker-friendly. Where should I start?

        Answer: Congratulations on recognizing the need for change at your company. As you've discovered, situations sometimes require that we just buckle down and get the job done. However, the dictatorial and military model of management rarely works in the long run if you want the company to continue growing. You need every bit of energy and creativity your employees can contribute to remain competitive.

        Change will not occur overnight, no matter what you do. However, if you take the following steps, employees will begin to notice the difference.

        • Build a core team of leaders. They should be drawn from all ranks, not just top management. Choose the natural leaders as well as those in highly influential positions such as plant supervisors. Your job is to convince this group of the need for change and to agree on how the change will occur.

        • Communicate the importance of your vision. Make every employee responsible for the changes you will be implementing — your core team members will act as the role models. Explain how important these changes are to the organization.

        • Listen to the employees. Bring your leadership team out into the field and visit your plants. Meet with all employees and share ideas by reassuring them that there will be no repercussions for their honest opinions. Announce an open-door policy and stick to it — listen to every idea that's presented without criticizing it.

        • Ensure respect for individuals. In a dictatorial environment, employees do not feel respected. After all, even the smallest decisions are made for them. To eliminate this, begin praising and encouraging your employees. Let each individual know how much he or she contributes to the company. When problems surface, focus on the process and actions, not the individual.

        • Transform employees into contributors. Create work teams that meet to discuss and resolve problems. Your employees will gain respect and learn to trust their new co-workers.

        Michael Crom is executive vice president, Dale Carnegie Training. For advice on work issues, visit or e-mail


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