4 Ways to Know What’s Really Happening In Your Organization

4 Ways to Know What's really happening in Your Organisation - S Chris Edmonds

I continue on my journey to better health and fitness. I’ve been on Tim Ferriss’ slow-carb diet since early 2012. It’s helped me lose weight, lose inches, gain strength, and feel better. I am more alert, more present, and more engaged in daily activities.

I travel a great deal of the time. When I’m not in my own kitchen, where I have control over what I prepare and eat, I am bold in restaurants and with room service staff to ensure that I’m getting slow-carb foods. Still, I often ponder, “What exactly am I eating? Are there additives in these foods that will come back to bite me in the behind?” (Figuratively and literally.)

Depressing data about food additives is readily available. The plate of food I’ve ordered may look healthy (grilled chicken with vegetables is a staple) – but I can’t know for certain what preservatives are staring me in the face.

Understanding as much as possible about this data helps me make better diet decisions.

Leaders in organizations face a similar challenge. Leaders base plans, decisions, and actions on what they believe to be true about their organization in the moment. To what extent, though, do leaders “check their assumptions” against others’ perceptions – before making a decision or taking an action?

What is easily observed may not reflect the reality “behind the curtain.” For example, this 2012 study from Kenexa shows how human resource professional’s perceptions are far off their employee’s reality.

How can you ensure you understand the factual current reality in your organization? These four approaches may help.

De-insulate Yourself. It is likely that you have, unintentionally, depended upon a select few players to give you information about what’s happening daily. Increase your sources inside the company. Dedicate space and time regularly to learn from different players throughout the organization to ensure you’re getting an accurate picture of how your organization is operating.

Genuinely Connect with Team Members. Employees know which leaders are truly interested in them as people, not just in them as contributors. Learn people’s names. Discuss their families and hobbies. Take five minutes to visit, not problem-solve. Over time, these genuine connections will boost team members’ confidence and willingness to tell you their perceptions, concerns, and hopes.

Seek Out Truth-Tellers. It is tempting for leaders to surround themselves with people who reinforce the leader’s beliefs and perceptions. The most effective leaders engage with truth-tellers often. These team leaders and team members are unafraid of describing the reality of the leader’s plans, decisions, and actions. Knowing the truth makes future decisions more effective.

Share Your Assumptions and Your Learnings. Check your assumptions by sharing them with team members. Say, “I believe ‘x’ is an opportunity for us. What do you think?” As you learn more of your organization’s truths, share those. Say, “I’m learning that many of you don’t understand a recent decision of mine. Here’s what I was trying to accomplish . . .” Listen and continue to refine your assumptions, plans, decisions, and actions. Don’t defend when team members challenge you – listen, reflect, and thank people for telling you their opinion.

In what ways to you “dig in” to learn others’ reality before making plans, decisions, and actions? What did your #GreatBosses do to stay connected to employees’ actual perceptions?

Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Photo © Monkey Business – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

An earlier version of this article was originally published on Chris’ blog on July 22, 2013.

S Chris Edmonds
S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration. He writes books and articles and records podcasts. In his free time, he's a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.
S Chris Edmonds


I help leaders craft purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. Speaker, author, & executive consultant. Blogger & video-caster. @BrianRaineBand mate.
Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.― Tim Fargo #quote - 1 hour ago
S Chris Edmonds