Four Ways to Learn Your Organization’s Truth

PlanningI continue on my journey to better health & fitness. I’ve been on Tim Ferriss’ slow-carb diet for 30 months. It’s helped me lose weight, gain strength, and feel better. I am more alert, more present, and more engaged in daily activities.

I travel a lot. When I’m not in my own kitchen, where I have control over what I prepare and eat, I am bold in restaurants and with room service staff to ensure that I’m getting slow-carb foods. Still, I often ponder, “What exactly am I eating? Are there additives in these foods that inhibit my well-being?”

Depressing data about food additives is readily available. The plate of food I’ve ordered may look healthy (grilled chicken with vegetables is a staple) – but I can’t know for certain what preservatives are staring me in the face.

Understanding as much as possible about this data helps me make better diet decisions.

Leaders in organizations face a similar challenge. Leaders base plans, decisions, and actions on what they believe to be true about their organization in the moment. To what extent, though, do leaders “check their assumptions” against others’ perceptions – before making a decision or taking an action?

What is easily seen may not reflect the reality “behind the curtain.” For example, this 2012 study from Kenexa shows how human resource professional’s perceptions are far off their employee’s reality.

How can you ensure you know your organization’s truth? These four approaches may help.

De-insulate Yourself. It is likely that you have, unintentionally, depended upon a select few players to give you information about what’s happening daily. Increase your sources inside the company. Dedicate space and time to learn from different players throughout the organization to ensure you’re getting the big picture.

Genuinely Connect with Team Members. Employees know which leaders are truly interested in them as people, not just in them as contributors. Learn people’s names. Discuss their families and hobbies. Take five minutes to visit, not problem-solve. Over time, these genuine connections will enable others to tell you their perceptions, concerns, and hopes.

Seek Out Truth-Tellers. It is easy for leaders to, over time, surround themselves with people who reinforce the leader’s beliefs & perceptions. The most effective leaders engage with truth-tellers often. These folks are unafraid of describing the reality of the leader’s plans, decisions, and actions. Knowing the truth makes future decisions more effective.

Share Your Assumptions & Your Learnings. Check your assumptions by sharing them with team members. Say, “I believe ‘x’ is an opportunity for us. What do you think?” As you learn more of your organization’s truths, share those. Say, “I’m learning that many of you don’t understand a recent decision of mine. Here’s what I was trying to accomplish . . .” Listen and continue to refine your assumptions, plans, decisions, and actions.

In what ways to you “dig in” to learn others’ reality before making plans, decisions, and actions? What did your #GreatBosses do to stay connected to employee perceptions?

Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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  • Brilliant!

  • In what ways to you “dig in” to learn others’ reality before making plans, decisions, and actions? What did your #GreatBosses do to stay connected to employee perceptions? I’d love to hear what you think.

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  • CheryGegelman

    Chris – Your first point to de-insulate yourself resonates so loudly. Immediately my mind fills with examples of titled leaders who were shown what a select few wanted them to believe instead of the truth. …Which of course works beautifully with your third point to seek out truth-tellers!

    Chery Gegelman

    • Thanks for your insights, Chery! Leaders just need to check the info they’re getting, you know? If it’s the truth, one will hear consistent themes from a variety of sources.

      Best to you –



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