May 18, 2020
This topic was prompted by an article I read, about how leaders rarely get honest and candid feedback from people further down the organisation. Meaning they are in a bubble in this regard. Most of the news leaders receive is being massaged. That is, people may not want to tell you the bad news, so they avoid telling you, or they position it in a way, so that it doesn’t come across as bad news. Of course, a lot of it is dependent on the reaction you will get from the leader.
As a leader, you are not on the ground and there are many aspects of the organisation that really, are better understood by people who are on the ground or customer-facing. As a leader, you tend to be far more strategic. It’s really important to ensure that you are getting the right sort of feedback and that it’s not all being sugar-coated.
A client told me that one of the things that she had executed within her team was she picked four people at different levels in the organisation who she had a good relations with, high levels of trust and she told them individually that if at any time, they noticed her behaviour was out of line, or her behaviour was inconsistent with the values of the organisation, then they had absolute permission to come and give her that feedback. It wasn’t required that they needed to explain it, they just had to say, ‘Here are my observations.’
She found this practice extremely effective in keeping her in touch with the organisation. These people had access to her at any time and sometimes it was just a very quick conversation, and she said it helped her just keep her pulse on the organisation, which is why, she runs an extremely successful organisation. As far as I’m concerned or as far as I can see, she’s not in a bubble.
Conversely, I have worked with other leaders who live in a bubble. They are just unaware of what’s happening and one of the values that I bring as an external consultant to senior leaders is to tell them, what’s happening on the ground.
I feed information to the senior leaders, in terms of my work with other areas of the organisation or with other members of their team. Many a time they are actually surprised. Of course, as I frame it, this is my perception and this is what has been told to me, so I’m the messenger as such.
It’s very important for us to make sure we have access to getting feedback. Here’s something that you may want to do -find someone on your team and assign that role to them. At any time, if you are out of touch or there are things that you may not be hearing, give them the opportunity or the permission to come and speak to you about it. They don’t need to justify it or explain it. They can just say, ‘here’s what I’ve observed or here’s what I’ve heard,’ and then you can take that on and reflect on it. Doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. It’s actually a vehicle of being in touch.
My reflection point here is – How can you ensure that you’re not in a bubble and that you’re keeping in touch with what’s happening on the ground?