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Leadership What happens when you encourage your people to speak up

Michael Read is the general manager of Church & Dwight Canada.

Every business leader seeks to have their employees as engaged in the business as possible. We’d all love to be able to say that our workplace culture is one of unity, involvement and a feeling that each opinion matters and is taken seriously. But how do we get there?

Research by Gallup finds, not surprisingly, that organizations with teams who feel highly engaged in their company and its work perform at higher levels across many areas. Those who excel in engaging their employees achieve earnings-per-share growth that is more than four times that of their competitors. Compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of employee engagement post substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents and 21 per cent higher profitability. Their employees are healthier, too.

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Through the creation of a workplace culture at Church & Dwight Canada that ensures employees have a voice in the direction of the company and the strategic decisions the leadership team makes, I have seen for myself how this translates directly into better engagement, greater collaboration and stronger results. And I have learned several things that flow from the central idea that every single one of us has an effect on the business as a result of how we do our jobs; therefore, every single one of us has a role in achieving success.

Case in point: one member of our team challenged us on the traditional approach we used to take to our annual sales conference – saying that the format was actually at odds with what we needed to accomplish as a business. As a result, what was once mainly a “sizzle video” type of one-way presentation by the marketing team has been completely overhauled into a roll-up-your-sleeves, highly collaborative workshop event – now called the Integrated Commercial Planning conference. As a result, our overall strategic planning has been strengthened, and analytics and insights are used more effectively in both the development of plans and their execution.

All because someone had the guts to say they thought the sales conference was missing the mark – and they were right.

I have also learned that in order for people to be have confidence developing a point of view on our plans and strategy, transparency is key. They must have a clear understanding of our business, the goals we have set and the challenges we need to overcome to achieve them.

In addition, I have learned that celebrating people for taking chances by putting their point of view forward is something that needs to be truly embraced by the organization. It’s got to be organic and authentic so people feel it and will want to lean into it. If it’s just words on a mission statement somewhere, they’re not worth the paper they’re written on.

My philosophy is that if you’re willing to have an opinion, to put your voice out there and have a real effect, chances are that you’re going to come out of that with better ideas, more effective solutions and better business outcomes. From a company standpoint, we can make tough decisions more quickly and then better support one another in the execution of those decisions – because we all had a stake in it together.

We’ve had several members of our corporate executive leadership team visit our Canadian headquarters from the United States over the past 12 months, reviewing the operation and hearing from a slate of different business leads. We’re proud of the positive interest around Canada’s performance.

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They were pleased by the results, but more importantly, were unanimously struck by the feeling of teamwork, collaboration and people having each other’s backs. Those are the really fun days, when members of your team can speak so proudly and passionately about their work, their teams and their accomplishments.

That’s what gives us the confidence we’re on the right track when it comes to truly engaging our team.

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