Is the Antenna Up Radar ON? I don’t think so.
I am often surprised to learn management is somewhat unaware of the mood in their organization. Let’s face it, abstract concepts like culture and organizational climate are hard to measure. Without hard facts we’re not inclined to go with what our gut is telling us. Who wants to go out on a limb these days and tell people what their gut is telling them? Not management. The result, things tend to spread like a virus and infect the organization. At this point, more and more people begin to notice and a ground swell forms that results in a survey commissioned by management. When the results are in I often hear top management say, “I never knew it was this bad. How did we miss this?” From the working class I often hear, “tell me something I don’t already know.” So the natural question is: why is management so disconnected with the working class? This could have all been avoided if people had paid more attention and practiced – Antenna Up Radar On.
Walk and Observe What’s Going On – Practice Antenna Up Radar ON!
On a regular basis I’ll walk through an organization with Antenna Up Radar ON. I’m looking for signs of carelessness. I am looking to see how people interact with other people and how people interact with objects. For example, is the interaction between people positive or negative. Likewise, how do people use various tools to perform tasks. Are they doing so in a thoughtful way that’s considerate of how it affects other people. This is how I measure organizational empathy. At the end of my walk-through I’ll document my findings as a count of events.
Two Meaningful and Simple Tests
Two of my favorite things to tests are the bathroom test and the floor test. The bathroom involves an inspection of the men’s bathroom. But first let me share this story.
The Bathroom Test
Sometime ago, working for a client, there was a break in a lengthy meeting so I went to the men’s bathroom. As I began to wash my hands I realized the bathroom counter had a layer of water along it’s front edge. The person or persons that used the bathroom before me didn’t clean their mess! The experience left a broad water stain along my midsection – not the kind of place you want to bring attention to. So here I was, thinking how I would explain that I didn’t pee my pants! Thankfully I came up with a quick solution. But the experience reminded me how the people before me had a total disregard to how their actions affected others. This revelation led to the following thought. When people have a disregard for how they use the facilities they ignore how it affects other people. In this case empathy is low. When empathy is low then the interconnections between people may get severed and things like team work can suffer. If this continues then organizational climate may suffer as well.
This revelation lead to several experiments I would later conduct in many other organizations. Executives are often amazed how well they can get to know their organization when they practice Antenna Up Radar ON.
The Floor Test
The next experiment requires a walk through with an executive. Sometime ago I walked through several floors of a hospital with the Chief Executive Officer. We spend about an hour walking through various departments and having several discussions. When we reconvened in his office he asked what I thought and I said, “69 out of 100 people have a unique relationship with the floor.” The CEO was quite puzzled by this statement. So I clarified, “about 70% of your hospital staff walked by us staring at the floor.” I think it’s somewhat unusual when 70% of your staff ignore the CEO! Not even a hello, good morning, nice to see – nothing! What does it say about an organization when 70% of its staff don’t acknowledge the Chief Executive Officer? It can’t be positive. My conclusion, morale was low and the CEO confirmed that was in fact correct.
Is Your Antenna Up Radar ON?
The power of observation is a critical skill to have on a day-to-day basis. I like to use the phrase “Antenna Up Radar On”. Once you tune into the behavior and actions of other people and count what’s going on you’ll have valuable data. You might be really surprised to discover there are only a few key things you and your management team need to observe. Once you do this for a period of time you can speak from a position of authority and gain respect. You won’t be talking about your gut feeling you’ll be talking from a position of experience based on facts.
Now it’s Your Turn to Share Your Story
If you ever try these experiments or have some stories of your own then I’d like to hear about it. Please share your comments below.