In going about my day job, one of the services offered through my company is the conducting of employee surveys.
Many organizations use surveys as a means of “taking the temperature” of their organizations by creating an opportunity for their staff members to express their thoughts, ideas, concerns and suggestions in a forum that is both safe and anonymous.
Anonymity is a two edged sword.
On the one side it affords participants the opportunity to freely express their issues and concerns without any fear of retribution or reprisal.
The other edge allows for the possibility of unsubstantiated accusations of any type of wrongdoing as the accuser will never be known to the accused and never have to repeat those accusations in his/her presence.
As his often the case with these types of surveys, the information gathered frequently contains an outpouring of anger at injustices, real or imagined, levied against defenceless employees by poorly educated, largely untrained, brutal, insensitive, uncaring, tyrannical managers who, when presented with the survey data, discount the information as being nothing more than the mindless rantings of disgruntled, lazy, incompetent, puerile employees who don’t appreciate how lucky they are to have these prized jobs.
In other words emotion reigns, objectivity wanes.
Of course, I am exaggerating somewhat. I just know that very few people do the dance of joy upon learning that they can participate in a survey.
I recently enjoyed one of those fabulous days where I experienced “none of the above.”
I presented the findings of a survey conducted for staff members in a large department of a high profile organization in our city.
The work began several weeks ago with a series of staff meetings at which the survey process was explained and questionnaires were distributed.
Within a few days the completed questionnaires began trickling into my office and I very quickly realized that this was going to be one of the “good” ones.
Many of the questionnaires contained detailed, well thought out, articulate answers to the survey questions. The responses were thorough, specific and, most noticeably, not personal.
Completely absent were the vitriol filled personal attacks that have been the hallmark of so many other surveys I have seen and it was clear to me that those employees who did choose to participate in this survey, did so because they wanted their voices to be heard, were genuinely concerned for, and committed to making this organization as good as it can possibly be and were willing to believe that their managements motive for commissioning this survey is to make things better, not simply undertake yet another “feel good” exercise..
They didn’t go easy on the organization. They were blunt in their findings, harsh in their criticism and very direct in expressing their opinions around holding their management accountable.
But never personal.
And a few days ago I presented the results of the survey to five senior leaders in this organization.
And what a pleasure it was.
They asked questions.
They openly voiced their concerns at many of the issues.
They acknowledged their own shortcomings.
They discussed solutions.
They didn’t deny any of the topics of concern.
They didn’t ridicule.
They didn’t discount.
They didn’t see criticism, they saw opportunity.
They didn’t see whining, they saw concern.
They didn’t see demands, they saw requests.
There was no anger.
There was no sarcasm.
There were no threats.
Just focussed professionalism.
Leadership at its finest.
A joy to observe.
A model for others to follow.
And so I left the meeting with a strong feeling that while there is much work to be done in this particular department, the people on all sides are willing to come together, air their differences, find common ground and implement changes and improvements that will propel this group forward and upward.
We have spent much time on these pages discussing the notion that we only ever do one thing. We do what’s important to us in the moment.
All sides in this department exemplified that belief.
By their willingness to share their concerns objectively on one side and an equal willingness to evaluate these concerns with the same level of objectivity and absence of judgement on the other, these folks demonstrated that that it is far more important to make things better than it is to be right.
Perhaps we should round up this group and send them to the Middle East?
Till we read again.
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