How involving your employees in strategy discussions will help your business get through the pandemic

Article originally published in the American City Business Journal on August 3, 2020

In today’s challenging business environment dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, one thing is for certain. We will not bounce back, but spring forward as we adjust to new business realities.

In September 2014, I wrote an article headlined, “The ABCs of decision-making.” Given that it is more important than ever to engage your team to help chart the path forward, this is an update of that article.

Have you ever worked for a leader who would not solicit or listen to your ideas, especially when those ideas could help transition the business through significant change? This type of boss saps the energy out of the organization. Employees turn off any desire to work more effectively, don’t go the extra mile for their customers and put less than their best efforts into operating the business. This creates an undesirable working environment requiring a cultural change.

Ensure you have a culture of open communication

As a leader, I adopted an open culture with my direct reports that encouraged them to share their opinion and input on any issue, and I expected that they in turn would do the same with their direct reports. The best solutions come from debating an issue.

I used the ABCs of decision-making in order to come up with the best solution to an issue, relying on input from those employees with experience and expertise.

In my subsequent leadership roles, including that of CEO, I would normally ask for opinions on an issue before I shared my own ideas. However, on occasion, I might first propose that we go with solution A on a certain issue. Within our culture, a member of the senior leadership team could share their view that solution B might be the better option. The manner in which I communicated my response would convey how welcome their opinion was, and this would affect their desire to share their opinion on this issue and future issues.

My approach would be to ask why they thought B was a better option than A. We would then discuss the alternatives for an hour, a day or however long was appropriate. We would also invite other employees with expertise on the subject and those with good critical judgment to join the discussion. All opinions were considered and valued before I made the final decision.

The best solutions come from debating an issue

The process of debating an issue would result in one of three outcomes:

  1. I might sustain solution A and thank the senior leader for suggesting solution B, and for creating the opportunity for solution A to be rigorously tested against an alternative.
  2. If it became apparent that solution B was the better choice after being compared against solution A, I would choose B, thank the senior leader for suggesting it, and make sure they got credit for providing the best solution. They would feel empowered because their insights were valued, and their solution was chosen. They would also have a sense of ownership in the solution because they proposed it.
  3. More often than not, however, by going through this process, solution C would emerge – a completely different solution or some amalgamation of A and B, which was far better than the alternatives. This outcome occurred only because we had an open culture that encouraged employees to propose alternatives and work collaboratively to determine the best solution.

When we followed this process, we always felt confident that we had made the best decision, and indeed, we found that we rarely made a mistake.

Every employee wants their voice to be heard, to feel valued, and have ownership in the decision-making process. The leaders who understand this and empower their employees to be active contributors will set themselves apart with better decision making and higher employee retention.

Remember the ABCs of decision-making. Your employees will feel engaged and your organization will achieve better results. This is especially important as your business adjusts to the realities of Covid-19.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at

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