Use Your Brain Trust

Guess what? In any company the front office does not have a monopoly on brains and ideas. For some reason we think that once someone crosses the line into the front office, she or he is the only one who can think. Too many times people want people to just “shut up and do their job”. Often managers of companies do not care enough to ask the people on the lines their opinion on how things should work. 

No matter what a manager’s previous job was, he is now the self-proclaimed authority on anything and everything.

Now combine that with the insecurity that comes with the “imposter syndrome” that managers/leaders feel, and you have a real self-imposed impasse when it comes to managers working side by side with line workers to make sure that all of them are doing what is best for the company.

No matter what the size of your company’s labor force is, whether it be ten, or fifty, or five hundred people, we have to realize that all of these people make up the company’s brain trust and that they all have something to contribute when it comes to making the company better.

The true job of a manager, actually the true job of a leader, is to mine that corporate asset, that brain trust, and get as much out of it as possible.

This means finding innovative and creative ways to engage all of your people and get their ideas and thoughts and suggestions on how together you can make your company better, to the point of greatness.

I grew up surrounded by men and women, uncles and aunts, who were production workers in textile mills and shoe shops. They were treated poorly to say the least. They were treated as chattel, as second class citizens. They knew that they had to toe the line and that they had to treat their bosses with respect, or they would be out on their keisters. 

Back then there was nothing worse than being unemployed. As a kid I would sit and listen to these working aunts and uncles when we all got together on Sunday afternoon talking about how their bosses did not have a clue how their department was run and how there were many more things that could be done to make their company run better.

More than once I heard them say that when they mentioned something to their boss, when they made a suggestion that could have made their job and their departments function better, they were told “to shut and get back to work”, and that “they were paid to work their machine and not to think.”

Now I know that times were different back then and that things are better now. And I would be surprised if someone who made a suggestion in your company today would be told to “shut up and get back to work.” But sometimes I think that doesn’t happen because we live in more politically correct times, and we don’t talk to people that way.

But then again in a kinder and subtler way the line workers are still being told the same thing.

Look, I am not saying  that we should be taking advantage of our corporate brain trust to make our workers feel good about themselves and their jobs (although that is an excellent by-product). I am saying that fifty brains are better than one and that five hundred brains are better than ten.

Your people are smart. They have a lot of good ideas. Everyone who works on the other side of that wall knows something about their job, their department, and the company that you don’t. If you don’t agree with that statement then you’re the right person for me to be talking to.

Nobody knows more about a job than the person doing that job. You have to assume that she is the “expert” on performing her duties everyday…so why not tap into her knowledge and her brain when trying to make that job and that department better? Multiply that idea, spreading it to the entire company, letting your experts (your line workers) have a place at the idea table and you will soon become a better run company.

Pay attention to all of the people who work for your company. Talk to them individually and discover more about them. Get to know them, get to know what they are good at, not only in the company but away from the company as well. Ask them about their own hobbies and interests. Ask them about the organizations they belong to and what role they take in those organizations. You’ll be amazed at the talent these folks have. In many cases, talents that could be put to good use making your company better.

A brain is a terrible thing to waste. To waste fifty or five hundred brains is truly catastrophic. Start talking to your people today and start using those resources. It’s only common sense.