“Find some truth tellers. The first thing every CEO must realize is that everyone is lying to him (her too). It just happens. They didn’t coin the phrase “shoot the messenger” for no reason. There are many wonderful organizations out there for CEOs that provide truth-telling services. Vistage is an international group whose tag line is something like “Have your answers questioned.” It’s pretty clear that their ideal customer is the CEO who recognizes that even people who are closest to them might shield them from important information and feedback. “
One of our key offerings is creating “upward” communication channels in organisations offering CEO’s and executives the opportunity to access un-filtered narrative fragments, giving them a view of the inner dialogue happening in the organisation. A key question for us is: Do you really know what people are saying about your strategy, your team and the organisation when they’re standing around the water cooler? ….
We all know that no CEO can achieve their goals or effectively execute a strategy without the buy-in and co-operation of the employees of the organisation. It’s therefore imperative that CEO’s know what the truth is, and ensure that they aren’t subject to well-meaning (or self-serving) “truth filters”. Using traditional surveys or focus groups exclusively isn’t the way to go to get a true reflection of people’s perceptions. The truth is, most of us can figure out what the “right answer” is quite quickly, and even if we’re not that way inclined, often the questions asked aren’t contextually relevant and most often leads to a reaction of “well, it depends …” and we end up selecting the safe middle option. Often we get trends or statistics with very little meaning from these type of interventions.
Collecting narrative fragments and finding patterns in the stories people are telling naturally in your organisation offers a much greater chance of getting to the truth. Collecting these stories over time and monitoring for shifts in the patterns affords the oppotunity to pro-actively address negative patterns before they become the dominant pattern (a process we call weak signal detection).
I hope that leaders heed advice such as that given in the blog entry mentioned above. In today’s cut-throat environment we need savvy leaders who aren’t afraid of hearing and dealing with the truth.