They May Stop Asking…Sep 20, 2023
If you think back to one of the first things I called your attention to in this process of addressing these profitability killers, one of the things we covered as we looked at how it all starts at the top - or at least the best returns can be captured when that’s the case - was the importance of changing our approach. I shared the example detailing how much influence I saw a team of hourly behavior-based safety observers earn from their direct peers simply because they listened to concerns, took action on what they could, and were intentional to follow up. The supervisors and managers in the respective areas of that facility had often been notified of some of the same issues but either neglected to take action or just didn’t follow up with the employee expressing the concern. In either case, that resulted in less authentic influence with their teams.
Don’t misunderstand my point here, I’m well aware of all the plates those supervisors and managers were spinning on any given day. Addressing issues required time they often didn’t have and circling back with the individual who brought it to them took even more. But how thin their time was usually stretched didn’t change the reality that this lack of follow up or follow through was almost always perceived as the employees’ concerns not being heard. And the old saying about perception being reality held true - at least for the majority of the employees that experienced this.
Before I close the loop on the impact that lack of follow up had on the team as a whole, I want you to consider a time where you took an issue or a concern to someone in a leadership role… Maybe it was in the workplace or a volunteer organization? Maybe even something you took to an elected official… I won’t ask you if you’ve ever had a concern like that go unaddressed; I’m sure we all have. I will, however, ask you to think about how you felt when it wasn’t addressed. Did you feel devalued by that individual you took the concern to? Did it seem like they were disengaged in their area of responsibility? And how did that experience impact whether or not you considered them to be an effective leader?
Several years ago, I contacted two elected officials about an issue I saw affecting the majority of small businesses locally. I’ll spare you the specifics but I will share that one never responded at all and I only received a canned reply from the other, which was likely sent by a minion in his office, saying that appreciated me reaching out but there was nothing they could do. Quite honestly, I’m still more than a little frustrated about that. While I do generally like the one as a person, I have zero respect for the other.
I realize that you’re likely more patient and more forgiving than I am. Here’s where I’ll ask you once more to continue praying for Cindy… But I’m guessing even the most patient and forgiving among us would still not consider either of them to have provided effective leadership and would have likely lost at least a little respect for them.
With regards to the supervisors and behavior-based safety observers, I’m convinced that the lack of follow up that had become the norm set the table for ANY follow through on the part of the observers to be viewed as remarkable! Those observers developed a significant amount of influence with their peers and helped make safety an almost cool thing to participate in! I’m not accusing the supervisors in question of being bad people, just suggesting that how they prioritized things often made an impression on their team members. The impression was a small example of how even the perception of bad leadership can affect employees and often spill over into lost profitability!
With that in mind, let’s look at how much different things can be with a more responsive approach and the impact that positive leadership can have on an organization - then will wrap this up with what we can do right away to provide that responsiveness.