We want you to take a minute and imagine the absolutely perfect organization. You may picture this as more of a fairy tale in today's market, but envision a business that operates without flaw and gets results one can only dream of. Now choose a few fundamental characteristics that describe that business or corporation. What would they be? Would one be a cost-effective and profitable bottom line? Consistent business growth? Maybe satisfied and loyal customers, or happy and motivated employees? How about all of the above?

Clearly, there are many characteristics that are prevalent from one thriving business to the next, but in today's economy, obtaining these ideals can be a steep uphill battle. Perhaps the most underrated means to achieving your company's potential is by "freeing" your employees. This means liberating them of constrictions and limitations, and allowing them the opportunity to take charge and make a difference, both personally and professionally. This can give everybody in the organization a voice, not just leaders and decision makers, because although the cream may rise to the top, it definitely starts at the bottom.

Okay, this may sound great, but how in the world do you pull it off? How do you get a group of diverse people at all different levels to think and act with the spirit of an owner? The answer is simple: Start an Employee Board.

What's an Employee Board?

One of our clients has summed up an Employee Board nicely with this description: "It's a multidisciplinary group of employees committed to developing a highly desirable workplace that is recognized by a positive and caring spirit. This group encourages excellence, personal growth, innovation, and improving the work environment." Let's break that down. It's basically a small, representative group of employees, both hourly and management, usually less than 1 percent of the entire workforce, which meets every couple of weeks for an hour or so. The function of these meetings is to provide regular and direct communication up and down the organization. Employees operate as a team to find ways to improve service, efficiency, productivity, and any other processes that affect fellow team members, as well as customers/guests and the bottom line. These biweekly gatherings encourage the members to surface organizational issues and opportunities, to share best practices, and, most importantly, to celebrate people and performance throughout the company. Now, this might sound like a bunch of committed business owners, and guess what? It is!

The Fruits of the Board

We all know that today's economy is challenging and requires all of us to think in new and innovative ways. The trick to prospering during these times is to maximize how we use our resources and assets. Les Brown recently said, "Recession restores resourcefulness," and we couldn't agree more. Now more than ever is the time to be resourceful with your people. They're your biggest asset, and they have the potential to ignite your organization. Look at the great organizations of today (Disney, Nike, Hertz, Southwest Airlines, etc.), and you will find these core principles at the heart of their success.

Launching an Employee Board doesn't require a large financial investment. With or without this board, employees are already salaried or compensated for work performed. Why not get the most out of this investment? Your employees want to be heard, and they surely have great insight into what's working and not working at the customer/guest level. So why not really actively engage them? Here's what you'll get when you do:

• Improved employee morale at all levels.

• Improved customer/guest satisfaction.

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• Increased word of mouth and repeat customers/guests.

• Improved communication up and down.

• Process improvement.

• Personal development.

• A valuable company culture.


A Final Thought

As the French philosopher and Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus stated, "Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better." Now is the time to recognize that by freeing employees from micromanagement and strict hierarchies, you are merely setting them and the company up for success. Give employees the chance to step up to help the organization, and they will. Create a culture based around care for one another as well as care for the customers/guests, and magic will happen! This is undoubtedly the best way to bring unity to an organization and tactically integrate every employee in your company. If you are fully committed to these principles, and honestly put your trust in your employees, they WILL be inspired, they WILL deliver, and they WILL get results!

Scott and Chad Lillie are principals of the Creative Leadership Group based in Billings, San Diego and Orlando. Phone: 406-655-9171 Email: clgmt@aol.com


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