Early in my career, a group of colleagues and I presented a proposal to a senior executive. We were pleased with our work.
The executive asked us a few questions about the idea, then he hit us right between the eyes: “Is this based on voice of the customer, or voice of the conference room?”
Given our dearth of customer data and lack of exposure to the customer, we had to admit it was the latter.
It’s safe to say we learned a lesson that day: Things need to be based on reality, not on what we sit around and suppose. We can be very guilty of this.
This same lesson holds up when we’re leading a change. We as leaders often see a threat or an opportunity coming against our strategy before our people do. We’re excited about the possibilities or scared about the prospects. Either way, as celebrated problem solvers – given that our proclivity to solve problems gets us attention and promotions – our tendency as leaders is to jump to problem solving.
But our everyday greatness can work against us. When we solve the problem and hand it down to our people…or we ask our people what they think of OUR idea for the change before asking them for theirs…our people see it as an edict.
Plus we’re missing all of their different experiences, all of their knowledge of the business and its idiosyncrasies that go well beyond our understanding.
For their part, they smile and nod, but they don’t think much of it – or worse, they push back passively. For our part, we wonder why they never execute on our great ideas.
So, let’s get the voice of our people, not the voice of our own pea-brains! Let’s listen, because when people feel heard, they’ll do remarkable things.
Let me know what you think. I look forward to being in touch.