You can observe a lot by just watching. – Yogi Berra
The story is told of a golfer who had been playing so bad that he went to see a psychiatrist who told him to relax by playing a round of golf without the ball. “Do everything you normally would do, but use an imaginary ball,” advised the psychiatrist.
The round went well and as he approached the 18th hole, he met another golfer playing the same way. They decided to play the last hole together and bet $10 on the outcome. The first golfer swung at his imaginary ball and announced that it had gone 280 yards right down the middle of the fairway. The second golfer matched his drive. The first man took out his 5-iron and after swinging at his imaginary ball, exclaimed, “Look at that shot! It went right over the pin and the reverse spin brought it right back into the hole. I win!” “No you don’t,” said the second golfer, “you hit my ball.”
Your perceptions go a long way in determining what and how you think. But can you always trust those perceptions? Sadly, and much too often, in many organizations there is the proverbial “us vs. them” mentality that exists. And too often we are more concerned about being heard than understood. So here are five questions that I believe are fitting for leaders to ask and answer. They can set you on a course of better communication and understanding that will make you a more effective leader and create a better work environment.
What do I see?
What you see taking place in your organization is a perspective unique to you as the leader. Of course you will have a better understanding and answer the more you are out among your people. What do you see taking place? Do you see your people with all the tools they need to be their best? Do you see collaboration and camaraderie? What are the strengths of the organization and what are the weaknesses? Who are your heavy-lifters and who are your slackers?
What do I know?
Next is the formation of your perceptions based upon what you see. It may or may not be an accurate assessment based in part on the amount of time you spend with your people. If this is not something you do on a regular basis it may not be very accurate. But based upon what you do see – what do you know? Are you where you need to be? Are you getting the most from your people where they are? What do you know now that you wish you had known six months ago? What do you need to change?
What do my people see?
The first two questions are about your perceptions. Your perceptions are needed and important but the puzzle is still incomplete. Now, put yourself in the shoes of your people. Look at things from where they sit and work – now what do you see? This is about their perceptions. How do they see your leadership? Do they see you as an obstacle to progress or a facilitator of it? Do they see a fine-tuned operation or one that is mired down somewhere? If you want to be a more effective leader then you need to see what they see.
What do my people know (that I should)?
Throughout your organization are talented and highly skilled sales people, PA’s, marketing professionals, accountants, executives, volunteers, and the list goes on. What they know is a treasure trove of valuable information. But that information is of no worth to you if you do not tap into it. Your people are the most valuable asset you have as a leader. Get to know them and what they know. You can make better decisions that affect your organization when you listen to the people on the ground who have the most at stake by your decision. Listen to them and give value to their input.
How can we come together?
It’s time to put an end to the “Us vs. Them” mentality and the walls and isolation it creates. You best build and grow your organization when you build and grow it together. What you have to do is figure out the best and most practical way for you and your people to come together, get to know one another, build relationships, share information, and work together for a brighter future. Good leaders will do this. It’s time to ask, answer, and listen. Are you game?
© 2014 Doug Dickerson
I welcome your feedback:
1. What additional steps would you suggest to overcome the “Us vs. Them” mentality?
2. What other things should leaders look for from the perspective of their people?