Imagine going into your boss’ office, closing the door, and leading off with this:
“So, first, I just wanted to say “thank you” for fitting this into your schedule. I know you are busy and that this meeting is a bit of a mystery, but I think it’s important that we talk, because we’ve got a problem.”
“Based on feedback from the team, you’re not getting the job done, and it’s something that we have to take steps to correct, now. If we don’t deal with this, the momentum around our biggest projects is at risk.”
For most people, that discussion is backwards…it’s the kind of discussion that managers have with team members, not the other way around. Just the thought of it is enough to cause people to turn pale and feel short of breath. Although it’s unthinkable in many work settings, the ability to have hard, really tough discussions on ANY topic is the hallmark of highly effective organizations.
One of the most poignant ways I’ve heard that expressed came from a sales manager I worked with who told me “My job is easy, but working here is hard”, because it’s so difficult to have open, honest discussions about the future of the company. The typical response from management is “My door is always open”, but for a lot of reasons, very few people actually accept that invitation, walk through the open door and engage in a purposeful discussion about what’s wrong, and just as importantly, what’s possible.
I had a recent experience on social media that inadvertently supports this point – the contention that information about our performance, especially when we’re failing – is trapped in the organization by a variety of social taboos and defensiveness.
Here’s what happened – I’ve been a member of LinkedIn for years, and have built up a sizable community of my own – thousands of individuals who are experienced, well-educated and represent a cross-section of operational disciplines – sales, engineering, product development and senior leadership. A typical post of mine generates a click-through of roughly 1% of my connections- so I was shocked when a recent post had a click-through of over 30% in the first 24 hours.
That post? It was a quote from a recent podcast where I said “If you are a poor leader, the LAST people who are going to tell you are the ones whose lives you’re making miserable.” When I posted that, my LinkedIn account went crazy. The truly shocking thing for me was that 3% of those click-throughs came from CEOs, 6% from corporate strategists and nearly 20% came from sales people – our eyes and ears in the market, the people who are explaining to our customers who we are, what we do, and the value we provide.
Deconstruct that feedback and here’s the apparent lesson - when leadership is failing – not providing direction, not laying out a vision of a future worth caring about, and not engaging the team constructively – our best people appear to agree that no one in their right mind would EVER provide that information to senior management.
That problem – our inability to capitalize on that hidden feedback loop from the market – from our customers and prospects and business partners – is what deconstruction is designed to get at.