As leaders trying to best position our agencies for future impact, we follow the trends, listen to the experts, at times invest significant dollars bringing in consultants to help us assess the situation, and yet far too often I think we overlook the potential competitive advantage sitting right under our nose. We forget to ask the opinion of those closest to the work at hand. I’m not talking about your leadership team, although their best thinking is a critical part of the equation, I’m talking about those middle managers who are overseeing the day-to-day operations . . . those who come face to face with the shortcomings of your “transformational plans” and know the workarounds and adaptations that have seeped into the daily pressures to meet seemingly conflicting goals.
Yeah, those people . . . those gold mines of information who, as a result of incredible loyalty to the organization, and/or perhaps with a measure of a “once bit twice shy” attitude toward sharing unwanted feedback, aren’t likely to tell you what they’re really feeling unless you ask . . . and they believe you really want to know . . . what they think.
But if you take the time to ask, and they believe you really want to know . . . Jackpot!
I’m not saying you will necessarily love everything they have to say. (But if you’re honest with yourself, I’m guessing even those things that are hard to hear will have a ring of truth to them.) What I am saying is the nuggets of wisdom that will come out of such conversations will likely knock your socks off. I mean . . . you knew you had great people, but . . .Wow! Because here’s the deal . . . No consultant, regardless of how smart, is going to have the passion for your organization that your people do. No outside expert will have devoted the hours, stress and tears to the organization that your people have. They may not have as many letters after their name as some advisor, but no idea — regardless of how good it might look on paper — will come to fruition without their buy-in . . . so ask them!
And then, (and this is key) you don’t get to tell them that how they feel “isn’t true” or they “shouldn’t” feel that way, 1) because perception is reality, and 2) if you do, you can guarantee they will be keeping their thoughts to themselves in the future. And that, without a doubt, would be to your detriment.
So if you want to weigh the good, the bad, the ugly, and the occasional wild hair idea that may hold a nugget of genius, it’s really not all that hard . . .
Ask, and you shall receive!