The higher you go, what do you hear?

Are you unwittingly obtaining your counsel from the "wrecking ball"?

Are you unwittingly obtaining your counsel from the "wrecking ball"?

It's been said, that the higher you go in your organisation, the lonelier it gets.   Does that hold true for you?  Invariably those in executive roles are already working long hours and have calls upon their time after hours (whatever after hours means these days).  There are only so many hours in a day and one person is only capable of so much, no matter how willing.  

That said, who can you take your counsel from?  A trusted confidant within or outside the organisation, fellow executive team members, and for some their HR adviser.

But think about it.  If you cast your mind back, before you reached those lofty heights, what did you once hear on the "grapevine", around the "water cooler"?  Compare that to now.  What do you now hear?    The information you receive, has it been sanitised for your eyes only?

Do you feel that you're missing out on vital information that would really reveal what's going on in your organisation and make you more attuned to your people?   After all, if your people don't truly engage with you are they onboard and driving the best possible outcomes?

Do you suspect you're surrounded (even partly) by sycophants?  Are people machiavellian?  Are they also the people who may have a vested interest in not being candid with you - does their pay packet and bonus rely largely on being in your good books?

That leads me to ask.  If that partially or completely rings true, what part did you play in creating the situation and what can be done to change it?

What you don't want to happen

Why do I raise this?  Well I got talking to someone the other day.  They're part of what has always been a successful company - successful from a financial perspective, but importantly for this individual, culturally successful.  The company has always flourished with an engaged workforce and it's a place this person for several years has enjoyed being a part of and contributing to its success.  

All good.  So what's the problem?  The company's owner, over a year ago, brought someone in on a part-time contract basis to "manage the culture" and attend to all things "people".  And the person they've outsourced "people"  to doesn't engage with the people who've kept the cogs turning.  They deliver programmes, but the strongly held perception is that they're not invested in the company in the way that the people who've worked there for years are.  The trust has dissipated and people are walking.

And why?  The owner has outsourced the very thing they used to do well, because they perceive they no longer have the time.   The owner is taking counsel from one source and that's letting them down and ultimately the business is suffering.


Fostering connections

  • Find a way to connect across roles and levels of the organisation.  Don't intentionally or unintentionally discount people because of a "title".  Consider holding "skip" level and "town hall" meetings.  When someone is brave enough to ask that "tricky" question, everyone will be waiting to see how you respond.  Were you prickly, defensive or did you embrace the question and respond constructively?  How you "lead" in these situations will help determine their success. 
  • Build relationships across the organisational hierarchy.  You may consider mentoring.  Is there a talented person who would really benefit from your knowledge but from whom you may also learn?  Mentoring can make for a really great two way relationship.  And if that doesn't happen, that's okay, maybe you've started to create a more human dimension!
  • Another thing you might do, is consider when was the last time you truly stopped to talk to someone in or outside your team?  Chat about the footy, their family, what's important to them.
  • It's critical to take the time and energy to really know what's going on.  
  • Be prepared to hear the good, bad and the ugly and to not take it personally.   Always remember the vast majority of people are vested in the company and want it to prosper.

If you've got nagging doubts about what you're hearing and who you're receiving your counsel from, act on it.  Don't delay, do some digging and building!

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Elisé Burch | HR with a dash of Legal

"Taking the sting out of employment headaches"