In all great organisations, people are able to speak their minds and also share the truth with compassion. The worst organisations are those where staff consistently agrees with their bosses. If truth is not readily accepted within the organisation, discontentment will usually be the result. And when discontentment grows to hatred, no amount of team building can save the organisation.
When some of these organisations engage me to help them in their team building programs, I will usually tell them that the problem lies beneath the surface and needs them to have a heart to heart talk with their staff. Some activities just simply do not change the matters of the heart.
How do you create a work climate where truth is heard and accepted? Allow me to share a few suggestions:
1. Ask Questions And Encourage Your Staff To Do The Same
Questions should not be seen as being disobedient, intrusive or disloyal but a way of asking ourselves whether present processes work or what we do better? Great leaders use informal sessions where they ask innocent questions like: “What’s on your mind?” “Do you think it works?” “Can you help me understand?” “If you were making the decision, what would you do?” Great leaders use this to gain understanding about their staff and are not threatened when they give feedback. Once you have asked questions, encourage them to ask you back the same questions.
2. Engage Their Questions
Leaders always engage their staff when they ask questions. It is also important to acknowledge all questions as good questions. They also constantly encourage their staff by acknowledging their boldness when asking questions.
If your staff point out that things are not working out, just agree with them in humility. There is no point justifying when the end results show for themselves. Doing so will only aggravate your staff. However, it is important to all agree that once they have shared their point of view, everyone puts the matter behind them and move on.
Another useful method is to engage in a debate. Engage people in debating to and fro; allowing all to express their views. I have often been humbled by the quality of suggestions and improvements when a rigorous debate has taken place. Sometimes debates do get heated up, but it is necessary to allow them to express themselves to a certain limit. At the end of the session, all great leaders have to ensure that they have reached a solid conclusion.
3. Evaluate without pointing fingers
It is so easily to pin-point who makes the mistake. A lot of time is wasted when we start identifying which particular person made the mistake. When Philip Morris acquired 7-UP in 1978, they sold it eight years later at a loss. In one of the interviews with CEO Joe Cullman, he took personal responsibility for the loss, rather than blame his executives. In fact, he dedicated 5 pages in his book, I’m a lucky guy, to analysing how bad his decision was. It analysed the mistake, its implications and lessons. Joe went on to say that if he only listened to people who opposed his plan at that time, the disaster might have been averted. He also made sure that the media knew that it was another Joe Cullman plan that didn’t work.
He said “I will take personal responsibility for the bad decision. But we will all take responsibility for extracting the maximum learning from the tuition that they have paid.”
When leaders start asking questions and encouraging their staff to do the same, it is inevitable that they will start asking good questions that will steer the organisation. If we support this openness and without pointing fingers when things go wrong, we will inevitably have a group of staff that will have no fear and consistently speak the truth.
I rather surround myself with people who sharpen me and speak the truth, would you agree?
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