Thinkers versus doers

Ryan Posey, HSI Sensing

At some companies, it can be easy—and dangerous—to let the division of labor fall into two camps: the doers and the thinkers. We found at HSI Sensing that moving away from that model increased the buy-in from our employees and even reduced some of the limitations and stress at our upper levels of management.

When my grandfather started HSI Sensing in 1968, there was naturally a very flat organizational scheme—it was a group of equals. My grandfather, my grandmother, and an uncle made up the whole company. They shared one desk, each using it at different times of the day!

Even as the company grew, my grandparents prioritized treating everyone associated with the business as family. My grandmother paid employees weekly to make sure they didn’t have to wait on their money, and they started a tradition of giving out Christmas dinner baskets that continues to this day.

Later, when my uncle took on the leadership of the company, the company grew more and the culture shifted. A divide between doers and thinkers developed. The thinkers in management—a small number of people—were responsible for all innovation and leadership. Meanwhile, the doers were expected to do their jobs, do them perfectly, and often didn’t feel as valued by the company as we’d have liked.

Another company transition started to change that dynamic—when my father and another uncle led the company, they started to make decisions with a larger pool of colleagues. That laid a strong foundation for the culture my cousin and I seek to create now that we are in leadership positions.

We’ve instituted an employee stock ownership program, along with quarterly education about how to make the most of it. In fact, every employee there has more stock in the company than I do! It’s truly their company, not mine.

Over the last several years, we’ve trained staff on their stock ownership program, opened up our financials, brought in business coaches and advisors, and worked on communication and consensus-building within the company.

For HSI Sensing, I’ve found that giving more ownership to all of our team members, even the ones who aren’t traditionally considered decision-makers, contributes to more of a buy-in from all of our employees. In your company, it might not look like a stock option, but what could your leadership team do to increase employee buy-in and avoid that division between thinkers and doers?

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