I recently attended a staff meeting in a company where I had been engaged to do some work.
My client, the brand new VP of Production had invited me to join the meeting at which he was going to address a number of issues and staff concerns that had been brought to his attention.
He began the meeting by announcing to all that he was aware of a rising level of dissatisfaction among some staff members and he expressed his opinion that their discontent was indeed justified by some of the poor decisions that had been made by certain members of the management and supervisory team and further compounded by some of their actions.
He apologized profusely and acknowledged that not only had he failed to curb these practices but that he too was guilty of administering them.
He mentioned that, while he could not change anything that had happened in the past, he committed to “things being different in the future.”
He went on to explain how he intended to develop an environment in which each person would look forward to coming to work every day and he explained that in order to get there he needed the help of each person in the room.
He asked those present to openly express their concerns and assured these folks that their voices would be heard.
And he only asked for one thing in return. He asked each person who came forward to discuss a concern, problem, frustration or challenge they were experiencing in the workplace to bring with them a proposal; their ideas for a solution and the role they would be willing to undertake in its implementation.
And he was careful to state that while not all suggestions could, or would, be implemented, he emphasised that every idea and suggestion would be listened to and thoroughly evaluated.
He continued by saying that in his opinion a true mark of leadership is the willingness to assume ownership of a challenge and to be the living embodiment of what successful change looks even if one lacks the authority to formally influence such change.
He stated his belief that he was addressing a roomful of leaders.
As an outsider, an observer, watching his every move and paying close attention to every word, I thought he did a masterful job.
In my opinion his presentation was honest, sincere and sensitive. He openly took responsibility for all that ailed them even though he had only been employed by that company for less than one month. He opened the door to his office as widely as possibly by his invitation all those present to “drop by anytime,” and pledged to spend time on the floor getting to know everyone.
This particular company is one in which I am well versed. I have spent a lot of time working with different people in different departments and so I was well aware of the declining morale throughout the organization and a growing sense of “they treat us like $^*#” around here.
In fact, the CEO, a long time client and friend and also newly hired to run this company, had recruited this young VP as the first step in a well thought out strategy to address long term concerns with poor performance, high turnover and growing disenchantment among the staff.
So as the meeting drew to a close I really thought that this was, as he had promised, the dawn of a new day in the Production department. I thought that people had bought in to his vision for improvement and that there would be a flurry of activity as the excitement of bringing new ideas and new relationships wound its way through the department.
At the least I thought they would give him a chance.
Boy, was I wrong.
As the staff filed out of the room several of them who knew me from previous work I had done in their organization stopped to engage in conversation.
Here’s a sampling of what I heard.
“What a bunch of $^*#. We all know he’s lying. Nothing ever changes around here.”
“He must be crazy if he thinks I’m going to help him make thing better. It’s not my job.”
“He may have fooled the new folks who haven’t been here very long, but he sure didn’t fool me. We all know he’s gonna be just like the others.”
“I bet if we all stick together we can get him to quit in three months.”
“Why should we give him a chance? No-one’s ever given us a chance.”
“Respect? Yeah right! First they gotta show it to us before they’ll get any from me.”
And on and on it went.
Later that evening as I was reflecting on the meeting and those comments I couldn’t help but ask myself a few questions.
Am I like that?
Is it possible that I have become so jaded by life, so angry, so frustrated, so hurt, and so disappointed that I now believe that that is the status quo and will never change?
Have I concluded that I have no control over how I am affected by events in my life, no say over how I feel and no belief that my happiness is my responsibility?
Have I developed beliefs so negative and so deep that I will not even entertain the possibility that positive things can happen?
Have I become a victim of learned helplessness? Have I become so defeated by unsuccessful past efforts to bring about change that I now believe it is hopeless – it just cannot and will not happen?
Have I built labels and judgments about people, places and events that are so filled with negative expectation that, regardless of positive outcomes to the contrary, I will look for fault until I find it?
No I haven’t!
No I won’t!
Till we read again.
P.S. Thank you so very much to those who “signed up” for the New Year’s resolution to take a one year sabbatical from judgment of others and to dedicate 2011 to being “the change you want to see in the world.”
As at this time of writing 124 people have contacted me to say ‘I’m in.” I am both humbled and delighted by your response. By doing this we will make a difference in our world. A powerful, positive difference.
So to each of you I issue this challenge: Let’s not do this alone. Let’s, each of us, recruit 10 colleagues, friends, acquaintances and family members to do the same. Send them a copy of my blog “74. No more judging? Now what am I supposed to do?” and ask them to post a comment, or send an email to email@example.com simply saying “I’m in” And then ask them to recruit 10 friends.
Imagine if we could encourage 1,000 people to commit to this pledge? 5,000? 10,000? 1,000,000?