If you notice even one, you should take action. If you don’t act, you will soon notice another one, and then another, and eventually all four.
- Not in My Silo. Companies consist of divisions and departments. In the best organizations, these divisions and departments work together. The “enemy” is understood to be the competition, not another part of the same company. In the worst organizations, the various divisions and departments keep to themselves and scorn one another. They never exchange best practices or collaborate on common challenges. So you hear blame and recrimination when you should hear camaraderie and collective good will. Most organizations are somewhere between the extremes.
- The Proverbial Gorilla. Let’s say you are planning the agenda for an important management meeting. Everyone knows that a particular issue needs to be addressed. But no one is willing to say so. The planning proceeds apace, and the agenda gains final approval—without any mention of the critical issue. What you have here is fear and cynicism. No one wants to risk censure for speaking up, and no one expects anything to change anyway. So everyone just goes along. You can bet the issue will come up at the important management meeting. It just won’t be on the agenda, and it won’t have a microphone. It will be in the hallways, in whispers.
- The Three Monkeys. Japanese folklore offers a wonderful metaphor for this common problem: the three wise monkeys who hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil. Similar to the Proverbial Gorilla, this phenomenon instead describes the reluctance of employees, supervisors, and middle managers to alert senior management to imminent delays and problems, until it is too late to do anything about them. Research shows that almost everyone is aware of a pending issue of some sort, but few people have the courage and confidence to speak up. Management that “shoots the messenger” is usually why.
- The Naked Emperor. We all remember the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale about the emperor who buys new clothes from swindlers who sell him such fancy silk that only the smartest and wisest people can see it. Of course the emperor is embarrassed to admit, even to himself, that he cannot see the fabric. No one dares tell him he is naked, save a little boy who is too innocent to know better. If, as a manager at any level, you do not have relationships of candor and honesty, you risk walking naked in public. At the very least, you need someone to tell you the truth about your leadership. Above all, don’t shoot the messenger!
There are others, but in most organizations with engagement issues, these four are the most common. The good news is you can see them plainly. The tough part is turning things around.
Thomas J. Lee ( http://rainbows.typepad.com/blog/say-hello-to-thomas-lee.html) brings decades of experience and expertise to employee engagement for breakthrough change and performance in business. Over the last 15 years, Tom has culled best practices in engagement, leadership, and organizational communication from major, pace-setting corporations. Once he identified and documented what really works, he created a powerful process with proven strategies and practical tools that build workforce engagement and help managers learn to work as leaders. That clears a path for change and barrier-breaking business performance. A former journalist and speechwriter for Fortune 100 CEOs, Tom is an alumnus of the University of Chicago, where he serves as a mentor to graduate students, and of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.