Look over the following questions and activities. In this chapter, they are designed to give you a current snapshot of you, your leadership team, and your people. If you are part of a leadership team, do this together as a team. Talk about the issues raised in this chapter. Collect information and data from within your business. Interview people and listen to what they have to say. Do so with an open mind…you may hear many things that you will not believe (and some that should not be given great consideration), but you may also learn about so much more than you currently understand.
Application Activity 3.1: Whispers in the Dark
If we listen carefully, we can hear
what is not being said out loud. It is the private conversations that people hold with each other, where they can say what they actually believe. It is the hushed voices, speaking only loud enough to be heard and only to those who are most trusted. It is the stunned or smirking look on someone’s face when they hear something they think is untrue, or from someone they find untrustworthy. These are the undiscussables in an organization, and while not easily heard, they speak volumes!
What are your people saying about your organization? …about you?
I know these are hard questions, but you can answer them, because you know what they’re not telling you. It shows up in what they do, say, and how they say it. It shows up in topics they avoid or change, and in those they are uncomfortable talking about. It shows up in their sarcasm…and, it shows up in their work!
So, listen carefully. What do you know about your organization and yourself that people have tried (unsuccessfully) to hide from you?…that they are just too uncomfortable to talk directly about…that are true undiscussables?
This is an important activity—it gets to the heart of whether your people believe whether you think they matter! If you struggle to answer these questions, ask for help! Conduct interviews and hold focus groups with your own people. Set up an anonymous social media site—ask for your people to share their views. If they are holding their undiscussables truly close to the vest, they will not easily talk candidly to you unless you work hard to make it safe enough for them to speak up.
Given enough safety, people will speak about their issues…and in doing so, they will tell you (if you listen carefully) whether they think you and other leaders fully respect them and their contributions. They will tell you what you still need to do, or stop doing. They will tell you how you can allow them to matter.
You can also capture this on surveys, but make sure you include a write-in section. That is where you can learn something that is currently unknown. I have done this as part of change engagements. My preference is face-to-face. There is something about a real conversation that allows you to follow up on what you hear—asking for clarification or examples.
Application Activity 3.2: What Have I Done? What Will I Do?
Respond to the series of questions listed in this chapter regarding what it takes (individually and as an organization) to help your people want to be real volunteers in support of your success:
What do you need to stop doing that makes it easy for your people to turn their backs on the company and stop volunteering their best?
Can you see patterns in the decisions you’ve made that do harm to your people, from their viewpoint? What do you want to do about this?
What do you, as a leader, need to do to help assure that your people are good volunteers, and become real partners in supporting your success? What do you, as a company, need to change to bring this about?
What must you do, as leaders, to make this part of your culture?
What does this mean?
After answering these questions, what did you learn about yourself and your company?
After answering these questions, what do you, individually, and as a business, want to do about your insights?
Application Activity 3.3: Conditions for Empowerment
Take a critical look at yourself and your leadership team regarding
. Answer all of these questions on a 1–9 scale (see below). You might consider doing this two times—the first time
and the second time with your
. It might be instructive to see if everyone on the team sees these issues in the same way. It might also be instructive to see where people differ.
When finished with the survey, identify areas where you need to focus to improve empowerment. Look, specifically at the LOW and HIGH ratings.
Identify up to two areas that cry out for improvement to support empowerment (LOW ratings):
Identify up to two positive areas where you can be improved (HIGH ratings)
What will you do about this? Where will you start? How will you proceed? (Fig.