Four Ways to Learn Your Organization’s Truth

Four Ways to Learn Your Organization's Truth
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

@scedmonds

Speaker & consultant with own firm & @kenblanchard. Author: The Culture Engine & 6 other books. @BrianRaineBand mate. @iStock photog. Blogger, pod/video caster.
S Chris Edmonds
S Chris Edmonds

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As part of my journey to better health and fitness, I followed Tim Ferriss’  slow-carb diet for 30 months. It helped me lose weight, gain strength, and feel better. I became more alert, present, and engaged in daily activities as well.

I travel a lot, so as you might guess, I have to be very intentional about following my food plan when away from my kitchen at home.  However, despite my boldness (with kindness) at restaurants and hotels where I work to ensure that I am getting slow-carb foods, I still often wonder what exactly I am eating, and what additives may inhibit my well-being.

Depressing data about food additives is readily available. The plate of food I have ordered may look healthy (grilled chicken with vegetables is a staple) – but I cannot know for certain what preservatives are staring me in the face.  Understanding as much as I can about food data helps me make healthier choices.

Leaders of organizations face similar challenges. They will formulate plans, make decisions, and take action based on where they feel their organization “is” at the moment. However, this can mean they are making many assumptions, which can be dangerous.

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

So how can you as a leader know the truth about your organization? Here are four actions you can take:

De-insulate Yourself.  It is quite probable that you have (either intentionally or not) surrounded yourself with a few key players who give you information. Expand your sources. Spend some time with other employees on a regular basis, not just your inner circle. You may be surprised at the insight from those whose opinions are not often sought. For example, frontline staff such as administrative assistants or customer service reps are a wealth of information that is often untapped.

Genuinely Connect with Team Members.  It is not enough to have a regular staff meeting and just discuss business. Find ways to show interest in your team members as people who have a variety of interests and responsibilities.  Ask them about their families and hobbies. Visit a bit before you launch into problem-solving. Try to arrange some fun outings to build camaraderie.  Over time, genuine, warm connections will create an atmosphere of honesty about the conditions and health of the company.

Seek Out Truth-Tellers. As you expand your interactions with employees, identify those who are unafraid of telling it like it is. Yes, sometimes these folks overdo it. However, there’s often a seed of truth in their assertive statements.  Lean into the information you may hear from these more outspoken team members.

Share Your Assumptions & Your Learnings. Build in some accountability by admitting what you may be assuming, then ask questions. For example,  “I believe ‘x’ is an opportunity for us. What do you think?”

As you understand more of the truth of your organization, be willing to 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.

The truth hurts sometimes, but it is better than making decisions on false information. Start hunting for the truth today!

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