Jack Webb played detective Joe Friday in the old Dragnet TV series, and he was constantly requesting that he be told “just the facts,” and not opinion, hearsay, suggestions, or personal bias.
The same applies to us in consulting. I coach people every week who want to know what to do with the equivalent of schoolyard gossip and casual rumor. Of course employees may say they can to the job better than the boss who got the position through “connections.” Of course senior management is going to claim that people should be motivated because the pay is good, so there must be something wrong with them. Of course sales and R&D will usually blame each other for results below expectations.
These are normal organizational dynamics. You can’t act on them as if you believe you’re hearing the truth! Here is how to deal with what you hear:
1. Ask: What is your evidence for that statement? Can you give me an example of where and when it occurred and who else witnessed it or heard it?
2. Ask: What is the actual observed behavior? How does this manifest itself in front of others?
You don’t want amateur (or even professional) psychoanalysis. You want to know what is actually visible in the environment so that you can verify it yourself. Validate what you hear before acting on it, or you’ll be most likely acting on what people prefer to believe and not what’s actually happening.
It’s bad enough to carry a flame thrower onto the ice. But if you light it, and then point it at your feet, you’ll find yourself quite quickly in cold, deep water. And that’s a fact.
© Alan Weiss 2014Print This Post