Last week, I met a client to discuss their approach to internal communications and the command and control approach was quite the topic of conversation.

In my view trying to impose a command and control structure just doesn’t work. Think about managers you’ve worked with who perhaps operate like this or parents you know who take this approach. What worked? What didn’t work?

I’ve worked for quite a few managers in the past who have adopted a command and control approach. At the time I didn’t think much of it – I accepted that was how it was (this wasn’t easy) and did what I was asked to do. But wow, my energy was zapped. And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way in the team.

I had three options:

  • Change: Try to change things and create a more collaborative environment
  • Play the game: Accept things as they were and treat it simply as a job
  • Leave: Hand in my notice and look for another job

Needless to say, I tried all three. I challenged the culture but things weren’t going to change quickly so I then tried to accept things as they were. But this was agony – I had more to give, there were things we could do as a team. We could be better and we could add more value. So I had to leave.

Command and control is old school and it just isn’t an approach that is fit for purpose today. The workplace has and continues to change. Employees are interested in the purpose of the organisation and want to feel ‘part’ of something.

This is why two-way or perhaps three-way communication is so very important. As leaders we all have messages we need to communicate but we cannot make this one-way. We need to ensure our team have the ability to communicate and engage with us, offering ideas. But we also need to ensure they have the ability to communicate with all of their colleagues not just their direct team.

Organisations that do more than communicate to employees but actively engage employees, like Virgin and Innocent, create a culture people want to be a part of. It’s a bit like an extended family. Work and life are less segregated.

This is the future…