Leaders need to know certain things. Not all things but certain things. Too many leaders want to know the wrong things rather than the most important things. There are four categories of knowledge that are always critical to their success.
First, what is my staff thinking? Too often we assume we know what staff is thinking but we find we are wrong because we have not asked. I want to know if my staff is as passionate about our mission as I am. I want to know if our staff is concerned about issues that I am not aware of. I want to know if there are opinions that have not been shared. Staff is your key intelligence about what is actually going on and whether they are in alignment with you. If you don’t ask probing questions or if staff does not perceive that one wants to actually hear them, you won’t know.
Second, how happy is my staff? I friend of mine once did a consultation with a well known ministry and warned the leader that there was a high likelihood that he would lose key staff members over some dysfunctional organizational issues. The leader didn’t want to hear, didn’t believe the analysis and made no changes. Over the next several years, almost all the key leaders migrated out of the organization.
Staff happiness is impacted by many different issues but some of the most critical include: a compelling vision; ministry clarity; a challenging job; an empowering supervisor; and a collegial ethos. How do you know if staff is happy? Just ask! I ask regularly, “What is your happiness factor (on a scale of 1 to 10)? Almost always I get a candid answer and follow up with questions as to what would make it higher. In doing so, I am made aware of important issues, some of which I may be able to change.
Third, what do I need to know? That is a common question I ask key staff members. They know a lot of things, much of which I don’t need to know as their leader. However, I trust them to tell me what they believe I need to know. Good staff is intuitive about what they wish their leader was aware of. Asking them this open ended question gives them the opportunity to share what they believe I need to know Follow up dialogue offers further insights.
Four, bad news and potential threats. One of our rules in ReachGlobal is that we don’t like surprises. We know that things will go wrong. We know that there are potential threats to what we do but unless our leaders or staff shares them with us, we cannot act on them.
There should be no surprises to the leader of an organization or to team leaders. Thus, in ReachGlobal we have the SDR rule (Sh** disclosure rule). We know things will go south from time to time but tell us when they do! We will do an autopsy without blame, learn lessons and move on.
Proactive leaders pay attention to the key issues they need to know on an ongoing basis.