As I hung up the phone, I shook my head. It was a long week of making phone calls to the field to hear their perspective on the business. I’ve used the practice for many years as a way of staying in touch with the front line and in tune with the reality of the day to day running of the business.
The best conversations were the “real” ones. No sugar coating, just raw feedback. Believe me – I learned to look past “how” the information was shared years ago. I was only interested in the messages. These individual messages while sometimes brutal, provided the detail and context that is not always apparent. Coupled with volume – themes always emerge.
And if you’re REALLY listening, it fuels your priorities and the amplifies the impact of your leadership.
It is also where you see evidence of how an organization builds trust. In fact, during my calls, I took notes. And later reviewed the detail to see where trust was being built or busted. This is an important marker and you will see me cover this topic again in future writing.
You see, your team regardless of your vocation, is always volunteer. And engagement happens where trust exits. Trust to know what they can count on. Trust to know their voice will be heard. Trust to believe that things will be fixed and improved. Trust is, in fact, the rocket fuel that powers individual leadership and the ability of your organization to build a future.
But in my calls that day, the evidence suggested the organization was busting trust, not building trust. The big battle of the day was self-inflicted and had little to do with the marketplace dynamics. In fact, it had been going on for some time. And I knew that it would take leadership to bring a new focus. It was my job to drive urgency with the organization to “get out of their own way”.
What I saw that week wasn’t unique. I had seen it before. And frankly, it’s the very issue that stops most organizations from optimizing potential. It takes observation, conversation and listening to uncover the issues. And it is the compilation of all the issues that paint the picture. Because, individually it is too easy to dismiss them and so the slow steady beat of “busting trust” continues.
Learning to take time to engage in the front line with enough frequency will allow you to see a more complete picture. But it means you must stop.
Stop to ask the questions and more importantly, stop to listen. To me it is one of the most critical jobs of a leader.
Let me know how you listen and gather the collective viewpoint and perspective. Whether it is your first time or your 1000th time to engage in the calls, the results are illuminating. I look forward to hearing how it effects your approach to leadership of yourself and your organization.