The higher you go in an organization, the more important it is for you to know the truth… and the harder it is to get. This is not a new phenomenon. Leaders have known this throughout history. Unfortunately, we often forget how important this is. When we do, the organizations we lead are in jeopardy.
Most of the information we receive as leaders is “packaged” for us by someone else. In most situations, this is acceptable. We can’t actually see everything for ourselves. Reports, emails and memos become our conduit for information. However, we must exercise judgment to know when we need to collect information ourselves. Sometimes we need to see what’s actually happening in the real world – on the front lines – not from a conference room.
Why is first-hand information so important?
Information from others is always biased. Most of the time, the distortions in the information we receive are unintentional but real nonetheless. Someone has made a decision which information to share and which information to withhold. Other times, information is colored to support a specific position or point-of-view. Going to see for yourself prevents this “others bias.”
Seeing for ourselves builds our credibility and our confidence. When we can talk about OUR EXPERIENCE, it enhances our position on an issue. We also know what we know and we know what we don’t. We may not have all the information we need, but we KNOW what we’ve seen.
Reality is our friend. Our ability to make good decisions is contingent on our understanding of reality. Unfiltered information is critical for us to make the best possible decisions. Seeing things first-hand is not the only way to root out reality, but it’s a good start.
Here are a couple of examples from my world in which we’re trying to apply the Seeing is Knowing principle.
I’m traveling with Dan Cathy, our COO to fourteen cities this year. Our objective is multi-faceted. However, one of the primary reasons for the trips is to hear first-hand the issues and concerns from our leaders in the field. We’ve already been to two cities and the conversations have been rich and the insights helpful.
Another example, our senior leaders in Operations have been visiting restaurants - ours and our competitors. In a recent 48-hour period, the team visited over 30 restaurants! You can read all the reports in the world, but there’s no substitute for being there yourself.
How can you get first-hand information about the people, team or organization you’re leading?[GLS_Shield]
If you’re interested, I’m getting some first-hand information next week from an organization Donna and I support in Kenya. I’ve written about CARE for AIDS before. It’s the ministry my son leads. I’m going to Africa for an in-depth, first-hand look at his operations.
While there, I’ll be joining the staff to do a live conference call with friends of the ministry back here in the states. If you’d like to participate and talk with the leaders on the ground in Kenya, the call will be:
March 19th, 11:15 am – 12:00 pm EST.
For call-in information, email Nia@CAREforAIDS.org.