pay attention to the whiner.

“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

~ Colin Powell

I enjoyed this – had to share it. Then, I started to really ponder what it really means. I bet each of us could name instances where employees came to us looking for answers and although we may have helped – we dismissed it as annoying. Now, that is not to say every engagement is value added – it may be more beneficial than we think (on a surface level).
Along the same lines – can you think of a group you have been involved in or around where when someone asked a question the statements were “it doesn’t help… nothing ever gets done…” I have been involved in a variety of situations where during an employee interview or problem solving event it was discovered that the problem has been going on for sometime. In some of those cases, in particular, the employees had a “work around” developed to counter or simply live with the issues based on the perception of action against requests from employees.
A short time ago, I published a blog entry discussing intellect, and the tribal knowledge in institutions. The article was focused on capturing the knowledge of employees and putting it to good use. The opposite side of that is when we, as a leadership team (or just a TEAM), lose the confidence of the employees and we stop receiving the much needed information to keep the operations running smoothly. So not only do we miss the ways to improve the process based on operators feedback we also lose touch with what is really happening. During the problem solving events that boiled up the real facts or history behind events X only happened due to the workaround was missed. So the very issue would not have happened if the team would have kept to the work around which was only in place due to “living” with the broken process. One problem led to another. The rabbit hole only grows from there.
So my challenge to you is to take walks to the floor, and engage the teams. Take notes on what they tell you. Research the issue(s) and then provide feedback accordingly. Not every piece of information received can be acted on – but the employees should be kept in the look. If you make the statement “I will get back to you” then do just that – with whatever the information is. Even if the idea cannot be pursued, explain the facts as to why. Complete the feedback cycle.
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