As organizations grow, it is increasingly difficult for leaders to stay in touch with the real world. Many leaders understand this unintended consequence of growth and battle against it. Others, less attentive, can gradually lose site of reality. Today’s Challenge: How does a leader stay grounded in reality?
As with virtually every post I write, there are rarely any simple solutions to the challenges we face, and, context is everything. The way you will answer today’s question in your world may be different from the methods another leader will employ. However, I do have some ideas that should help regardless of your situation.
For leaders to stay grounded in reality…
Go see for yourself – If there is an issue in your organization, you can read all the reports you would like and study all the numbers - this is all good, but it is no substitute for seeing the situation for yourself. How much time do you spend outside your office? How much time do you invest with your customers? How about your frontline employees, do you talk with them on a regular basis? All of these are disciplines which can move you closer to reality.
Spend time with people at all levels – If you are not careful, you’ll find yourself constantly in meetings with men and women at your level in the organization. Some of this behavior is necessary and appropriate. It is not sufficient to keep you in touch with the real issues in your organization. How much time do you invest intentionally with entry level people? How about team members one, two, three levels or more, removed from you on the org chart? Truth often lives close to the front lines.
Listen carefully when you hear dissenting opinions – The higher you go in an organization, the harder it will be for you to hear the unvarnished truth. People generally don’t want to deliver bad news to senior leaders. And perhaps the worst scenario is when you receive 90% of the truth. When you do have someone in your world who is willing to share unpopular or divergent views, listen. The truth may not be what you thought it was.
Identify trusted voices – Who are the people you can count on to tell you the truth? Do you have two or three truth tellers in your world? These need to be people outside your immediate family. I am suggesting people in your organization who will be 100% honest with you. If you don’t have these people, you are at a real disadvantage. I wrote about this a couple of years ago in a post about my assistant, Teneya. I specifically called out Candor as part of her job description.
I want to applaud the leader who sent in today’s question. If you and I will continue to ask the same question and always pursue reality, we have a much greater chance of finding it.
Continue the search![GLS_Shield]