Four Ways to Learn Your Organization’s Truth

PlanningI continue on my journey to better health & fitness. I’ve been on Tim Ferriss’ slow-carb diet for 30 months. It’s helped me lose weight, gain strength, and feel better. I am more alert, more present, and more engaged in daily activities.

I travel a lot. 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 inhibit my well-being?”

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 seen 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 know your organization’s truth? 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 to learn from different players throughout the organization to ensure you’re getting the big picture.

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 enable others to tell you their perceptions, concerns, and hopes.

Seek Out Truth-Tellers. It is easy for leaders to, over time, surround themselves with people who reinforce the leader’s beliefs & perceptions. The most effective leaders engage with truth-tellers often. These folks 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 & 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.

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 employee perceptions?

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

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2 Responses to Four Ways to Learn Your Organization’s Truth

  1. S. Chris Edmonds July 25, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    I know that comments are closed for my posts – unintentional, I promise you. I’m troubleshooting right now. Sorry!




  1. The Best Collection of Advice for New Leaders - August 5, 2013

    […] S. Chris Edmonds, from Driving Results Through Culture: “My piece of advice for a new leader or manager: It’s NOT about YOU (the leader); it’s about THEM (employees). #GreatBosses are servant leaders that create a safe, inspiring workplace where employees THRIVE. Workplace safety and inspiration isn’t something that’s built and DONE – they require constant tending or human foibles will push them off track. How do leaders know how safe & inspirational their workplace is? Observe and ASK. This blog post/podcast sheds light on Four Ways to Learn Your Organization’s Truth.” […]

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