There’s one or two or dozens in every organization. The employee whose voice is like fingernails on a blackboard. (Now there’s an analogy potentially only relevant to those of us in a certain generation!)
It’s tempting to tune out the employee who always finds
fault with the way things are done, their perceived injustices, their prediction that the whole organization is going to hell in a handbasket. Some of these employees truly ought to find another place to work because our organization is never going to satisfy their agenda or their unique needs.
On the other hand, how many times do we as leaders attempt to silence that voice crying out for change because it is a pointed reflection on how we are leading? I’ve been on both sides of this equation. The first time was as a staff person reporting to an executive. I kept trying to point out the growing cynicism in the workforce about the credibility of senior leaders. I encountered pushback, denial, and even a bit of “counseling” about how my continued voicing of this concern could be damaging to my career.
Later, I encountered this scenario on the other side of the equation as a senior leader who was anxious to carry the flag and defend the honor of the organization. I also certainly didn’t want to acknowledge my own culpability in the areas where complaints were being lodged.
In the June 2015 McKinsey Quarterly, “When to Change How You Lead,” McKinsey partner, Mary Meaney observed, “As I think about the organizations, leaders, and CEOs I’ve worked with, I sometimes ask myself where have I seen things go catastrophically wrong. More often than not, it has been because of arrogance. People who’ve stopped listening, stopped being open… As I think about the greatest failures, many of them resulted from lack of humility, of openness, listening, willingness to question yourself. Many leaders fell into the trap of believing that they were invincible, invulnerable, and infallible.” http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/getting_organizational_redesign_right
We recently had the privilege of interviewing Rulon Stacey, former CEO of Poudre Valley Health System (a 2008 Baldrige Award recipient). He described an important part of their journey – transitioning to a stage where all of the leaders in the organization were evaluated by “the patients and employees we serve. The leaders who are not supportive of this process are the leaders who do not have the self-confidence to allow others to give them feedback. Their mindset is, ‘My employees don’t have to like me. They just have to get the job done.’ We found just the opposite. When employees see that their direct supervisors and senior leaders care about them as individuals and respond to their feedback, they deliver better care.”
We invite you to respond with a key learning or insight you’ve had as a result of a “squeaky wheel.” We’ll share those – with or without attribution (your choice) – in an upcoming communication from BaldrigeCoach.