Last week we talked about where Escalations & Interventions come from. They come from an organisation that only looks up or out for inspiration. Looking inward can help you unlock the organisational treasure chest.
Often, as a leader, you expect to (or feel you are expected to) know everything there is to know about your area. You got promoted because of it. Stands to reason then that if you don’t have the answer, it can only be discovered by looking up (to more senior leaders) or out (to consultants). Many leaders and organisation do that, and do just fine.
Imagine, just for a minute or two, that you are the CEO. The top banana. You spent a ton of money to hire a lot of really smart people to do things that you can’t do. If those smart people only look upwards for answers, they’re missing something. They’re signalling that they associate intelligence with seniority, effectively inhibiting Organisation Intelligence.
As CEO you don’t want that, and maybe you start to lose confidence in your team and direct them to look outward. You get the Consultants in. Consultants know a lot about business, but not much about your business. To their credit, they’re really smart, work really hard, and will do the research. If they don’t know the answer then maybe it’s just unknowable.
So who does know about your business? The people who actually operate it. The thousands of people you pay to show up 50 hours a week to go the extra mile for the company. The people who actually bring in the money, day after day, year after year. They speak to customers. They build the products. They keep the lights on.
What I’m saying here is that the people who are best positioned to help you improve and grow your business are already on the payroll, just waiting to be asked the right questions in the right way. I don’t mean the annual Employee Engagement survey, or even something like an Exit Survey (good data point, but too late). Yes, those are critical data sources for any organisation but they’re not truly People Focussed.
When you ask people who don’t normally get asked to tell you what they care about in a way that puts them at the centre, then treasures await. You unlock Organisational Wisdom. If you can do that in a systematic way, greatness awaits.
Then, when you look outward for validation, look to other organisations and their people. Because no-one knows their business better than they do. And no-one knows the industry better than all the people who work in it. Listen. Learn. Change. Repeat. And then, maybe, run it by your friendly local Consultant. Chances are they will be more interested in listening to what you have to share than telling you what you already know. That’s when the magic happens.