Eyes Wide Open – View from the Floor
“There is an amazing view from the bottom.” So said an employee who holds no managerial role or has any aspirations to assume same. Stumped by the statement, my curiousity got the better of me which opened the door for a discussion on the views from the floor.
His story began like this. Bryan (not his real name) started with a distribution firm five years ago. He recalls being ecstatic about the prospects associated with his new job and the desire to move up in the company. His eagerness was palpable as he threw himself into being a part of the company. His previous employment had prepared him for this new opportunity in sales but he held grand expectations. A doer, Bryan has always excelled in a team environment and framed his vision around that expectation.
As the years rolled by and as the organization evolved, Bryan was drawn to exploring the impact of people’s behaviors on what he called the psyche of the enterprise. His view from the bottom up has allowed him see what many at the leadership tier are unable to discern.
- That simple greeting – What does it take to acknowledge your team? Bryan argues that a leader who fails to practice common courtesies, has no right to expect his team to do the same. His example of choice was the CEO of the company, walking into an office and failing to acknowledge the team. Through his lens, there is an expectation that a leader should practice humility and his measure was how impactful a “Good Morning” would be.
- Shared Vision and Mission – An organization rallies around a common or set of common goal(s). Leaders (managers and supervisors included) need to be certain of how their departments add value to the big picture. This big picture is the blue print of the company’s future which will be impacted by internal and external pressures. Many companies display large bold signs of their mission and vision statements, but should you do a survey among the workers, you would quickly realize that there is a severe gap between what is being communicated and what is understood. What is the business of the company? Who are our primary audience? What is the promise that we have made to our consumers, stakeholders and civil society? A simple expectation for workers at the lower tiers is that those that lead commit to actions that they want emulated by the rest of the organization. Saying it but not doing it creates conflict for those who are led.
- Underperformers at the top– Bryan seemed unable to comprehend why companies continue to retain underperformers in critical positions. In his view from the bottom, he has observed managers, directors, CEO’s create grave situations that places the company in crisis management mode. The result being increased stress cascading throughout the organization. “When they drop the ball through their own inaction or failed strategy, panic sets in and what I see is throwing darts with blindfolds on”, said Bryan. His expectation is that when repeated underperformers are identified, the bottom tier expects swift action to be taken by the executive to rid the company of the “cancer”.
- Don’t be a Suit-A suit is recognized by one’s attire. The business attire of choice in the corporate world, sets them apart from the rest of the organization, insular in some respect. They hurry to business meetings, with intense expressions, seeming to suggest how consumed they are with the company’s affairs. They do not make eye-contact and heaven forbid that an employer would seek to interrupt them as they make their way to their appointment. Bryan has met many Suits that have left a bad taste in his mouth after the interaction. His four best descriptions of his encounter were abrupt, egotistic, unreliable and dishonest.
The bottom has answers too – The missing ingredient in company success is the view from the floor. What cannot be discounted is within the frantic worlds of product and service, interaction with the consumer is highest among those who come in direct contact with the clientele. The architects of strategy at the executive level, will pull from the reports gathered from various departments and the data informs the future of the company. Bryan would like to see ideas coming from the bottom incorporated where possible in the overall strategy. In his opinion, ideas are generated from the bottom but there is no opportunity to share because the top has carved out the route to take and what will enable them to achieve success. He recommends that meetings realize something. In his experience, meetings are long and circuitous and the average worker does not care to listen to the drone of meaningless signs. He wants to see the Suits lose the straight-jacket and the hurried look. He wants to see meetings that are geared towards, not just sharing information from the top but incorporating views from the floor. “Isn’t this the information-age?”, he firmly questioned.
Throughout the exchange, what continued to resonate is that the Bryan wanted to have his contributions validated. Being part of an organization is a big thing. In my career, I’ve come across words like empowerment, engagement as well as self lead work teams. These words spring up as new fads and Human Resources gurus continue to churn out revised templates of the same concept. However, a swift kick to the derriere, from unlikely encounters, reminds me that we are still learning to rely on the wisdom of others who see things differently. As we progress in an upward direction in the corporate world, we lose our vision of the whole as more responsibility is heaped on our laps. Even with the other arteries of the organizations, called units or departments, leaders at the executive level are being called to engage and ensure they have a presence in the organization. Claiming to be busy is just not an acceptable statement any more.
Copyright 2013 Suzette Henry Campbell