A short time ago, in a leadership session I was conducting at a client company, I raised the point that employees are the best source of intelligence when it comes to uncovering inefficient and ineffective processes in organizations. That clearly struck a nerve, because several of the managers immediately jumped into the conversation. “I’ve asked,” said one. “Over and over again, but the team just doesn’t offer any input. I know they are aware of what we could change for the better, but I can’t seem to get them to speak up.” His comments were echoed repeatedly by the rest of the group. In an attempt to get at the root cause of this reticence from employees, I asked them to take five minutes and write down their answers to this question:
“WHY do you think they’re not speaking up?”
Interestingly, once asked this blunt question, their responses were candidly honest. And three responses, by far, were the most common:
- It’s not my job to raise the flag
- That’s the way it’s always been done
- There’s no point in saying anything, nothing ever changes
Not long after, they came to a very crucial conclusion. It isn’t good enough to just ASK for input from your employees. You also have to do two more things:
- You have to create an environment in which “doing the right thing for the organization” is everyone’s responsibility.
- You have to make a commitment to follow through and act on legitimate identified changes.
And these come from action – through being a role model, setting an example for everyone else to follow, and demonstrating that you will make changes as needed.
Are your employees speaking up when they observe inefficiency and ineffectiveness? Why or why not?