I recently had a 90-minute call with a firm about the potential of hiring a new employee. In attendance on the call was the founding partner, two associates, the DMO and the CEO. We spent much of the time talking about where they are jammed up, and where there is resistance and team empowerment. Basically, building a team of intrapreneurs.

The business owner did a fantastic job of inviting every person on the call into the conversation to provide insight and perspective. It was a very productive call and I was crystal clear on what I was hiring for from mindset, attributes, values, belief system, behaviors and skill set.

I was pumped; I couldn’t wait to dive in.

Two days later I got an email from the CEO: “Can we talk real quick?” Here we go – I know where this is headed.

The conversation started with “I might lose my job, but I think it is important that you know….”

The CEO wanted me to know that the founder was the bottleneck and the greatest violator of process and deadlines, and that was why there was such a backlog. In fact, they did not need to hire anyone at all.

Leaping leprechauns, THIS information may have been a tiny bit helpful while on a call with the owner 72 hours ago, you think?

My response was, “Great, got it. How would you like to proceed?”

Crickets.

I have personally witnessed many (most) entrepreneurs I have worked with ask (beg) for their team’s input and feedback. And the team feels like they are giving it. But what I am sensing more and more is that they feel they are providing it because their hearts are pounding out of their chests and they feel like they are going to throw up. If they take themselves out of how they feel and have an honest, respectful conversation speaking from a place of what’s best for the business, nobody’s getting fired.

As a business owner, I know I would be pretty grateful if my employee spoke up in that meeting and said, “My perspective is this: We don’t need to hire someone right now. I have been spending time on this and it’s simply a bottleneck problem with your files owner. I checked on the two associates, and the average matter value of their files is right where it should be. The way you like to do things is off process, but as a Quick Start I appreciate that and have some ideas to create win/win for your files and for the team to get the work out the door. I would like to hold a 90-minute mini-workshop next Friday with everyone to whiteboard the process and brainstorm how we can get the work out. My insight is to hold off for now on hiring until at least next Friday. What are your thoughts?”

Honestly, the CEO should have said that when she was asked to schedule the call with her, us and four revenue producers in the firm.

So why oh why do employees feel like they are going to get fired if they speak truths that will help (not harm) the business?

Because they are afraid of hurting your feelings. Honestly.

They don’t understand that when it comes to the business of doing business, entrepreneurs could care less about getting their feelings hurt. It actually doesn’t even cross their mind. Yes, it stings. Yes, it’s hard to hear. But when it is done in an honest, respectful, impactful way that anchors to the business of doing business and how they may be in the way, they are always, always grateful for it.

So if you really want to know what your employees are not telling you that you probably really need to hear, we invite you to take each of your team members out to lunch or coffee. When you schedule the “date,” make sure you tell them, “Nothing is wrong, you’re not in trouble, it’s just been a while since we’ve connected and I want to make a new habit of connecting with the team more.”

After you have sat down and connect personally on the kids, the dog and all that jazz, take a deep breath and say, “I value you and I value your insight. I need a favor from you. If I promise that you are not going to get fired, will you be brutally honest with me about where I may have blind spots?” They will most likely say “yes.”

You: “Oh great, because we are at the point of greatness where the sky is the limit for all of us. And I am not naive enough to believe that we can grow more until we stop and pause and take stock of our current reality – what’s working and what’s not working. I was an employee at one time and know nobody wants to tell the boss their fly is down, or they have lipstick on their teeth, or they are unintentionally harming the business. I know I have blind spots and I can’t do anything about them if I am unaware of them. Before we take this next leap, I want to pause and get deeply curious. What are people not telling me because they think they will get fired or it will hurt my feelings?”

And then shut up. And listen.

No, this isn’t work for the weak. But it is absolutely for the successful.

Let us know how you make out. Shoot us your feedback on how that exercise was for you and what type of feedback you received. Trust us, you will thank us.  Just click here and schedule a FREE discovery call.

Molly Hall

 

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