There is a time to ask for opinion
and a time to shut up and get into action.
Asking people about what's wrong (or what works) often backfires.
Another engagement survey, a few energy zapping focus groups and endless patronising talks about values and behaviours could be feeding scepticism and a sense of helplessness in your organisation.
Don't you know already?
Unless you really don't know how your organisation feels, you should spend your time and energy creating the right context for people to engage with a shared purpose, instead of finding out what you already know.
It is often the case that when we don't know what to do, we resource to buying time (until someone else takes over), 'engaging' the organisation on an endless chase of red-herrings, under promising motivational banners.
Every time we ask for an opinion we are making an implicit promise.
Try it for yourself. Ask all your family members whether it is too hot or too cold in the house. Then fix it. Please everyone. Make sure they are all happy with the temperature AND with the understanding that their role in life is to give you feedback, allowing you to control the thermostat. This way of working leaves people with three clear messages:
- my job in life is to give feedback, so that others can fix it (not me)
- they will never fix it well enough
- It's all about the temperature, not about the value I need to create
And the same goes when we ask people whether they have what they need to do their jobs well, if they feel empowered, if their leader gives them clear direction, etc. The default answer to these is 'never enough', as this helps us outsource our responsibilities while feeling comfortable with our position. At the same time, it helps us explain why there is nothing we need to fix, as we now have an explanation for why things are not working the way they should. Shuffle and play again...
It is not that we don't need to know, but we must avoid digging the hole deeper when it comes to culture.