In 1977, two Boeing 747s crashed into each other over the Canary Islands. It was the deadliest air disaster ever. It happened because the co-pilot of one of the planes felt unable to question his pilot’s decision to take off…even though he knew the pilot had misunderstood the air-traffic control directions.
How is this possible?
This is an extreme example of what might happen in your company if you have a culture where people are unwilling to say anything to senior managers. A culture where employees are fearful of speaking up when they notice a problem or just think something being proposed isn’t the best idea.
Sometimes the event that results is horrific. Sometimes it’s amusing, as in the story someone shared with me about how a manager at his company walked around with his zipper down all day because no one was willing to say anything. Mostly they’re somewhere in the middle.
Fear of speaking up. The reason critical information isn’t passed along. The reason wasted funds are spent. The reason that a new product is launched before it’s ready for prime time. The reason a great idea about a new product potentially worth millions never gets heard. The reason you’re never on a list of great places to work.
A great place to work is a successful place. A place where everyone feels appreciated and encouraged to share their ideas and speak up quickly if they notice a problem…or an opportunity. (By everyone, I mean everyone…from the person who cleans the office, up to and including those reporting directly to the leader). A place where all voices are carefully listened to and all information and ideas considered.
A poor place to work is an unsuccessful one. One whose leaders are the real problem. Leaders who stifle their people rather than help them blossom. Leaders who think they know everything and can’t imagine that someone lower in the organization could have something important to share. Leaders who create and cultivate a culture that discourages feedback on what their people are thinking.
What do you do to encourage people to share problems they’ve found or ideas for improvements or new products they’ve thought up?
Open the lines of communication. Encourage everyone to speak up. Make open and honest communication the bedrock of your culture.
Create a successful company – the kind that wins a best place to work award.