One Question Every Organization Needs to Ask (Part 2)

Who does what, Peter Drucker famously said, is the most important decision a leader makes. Suddenly, finding ‘who’ has become the hardest part.

In August alone, 3% of the American work force walked off the job. That’s 4.3 million people according to the U.S. Labor Department. In many cases, it’s put leaders on their heels asking, “Why are people leaving?”

When quality people who were once committed to the organization start to leave, denial starts to rise. “It’s them, not us” can be the usual refrain from leaders. To survive this labor shortage, thriving organizations assume the opposite. “It’s us not them, so let’s find out what it feels like to work here.”

It’s why Exit Interviews can provide helpful answers to this question. The problem is that exit interviews are often a waste of time because very little happens as a result of the feedback. My hunch is that the information gleaned from these meetings rarely even finds its way to the leader or leadership team. When exit interviews aren’t taken seriously, especially when quality people leave the company, it’s an indicator of a systemic culture issue.

When exit interviews aren’t processed thoroughly, it also reveals a dangerous threat simmering below the surface of the organization — pride. When leaders don’t feel the need to think through exit interviews, it’s often because of pride, defensiveness and/or an unwillingness to embrace what’s really happening within the organization.

A key indicator of this is when the leader or leaders talk more about what’s outside the organization (results and strategies) than they do what’s inside the organization (culture.)

Don’t forget we began Part 1 of this email series a couple of weeks ago talking about the direct connection. Results and culture eventually travel together. As Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And it greatly determines the health of the business.

When key people start leaving an organization, the first place to begin isn’t denial. The first place to begin is asking why. It’s why we need to go back to the question: “What’s it feel like to work here?”

If people feel safe, they’ll bring out their best self.

If people feel heard, they’ll be quick to listen.

If people feel believed in, they’ll return the favor.

The bottom line is simply this: If people feel cared for, they’ll do more. It’s why this question isn’t a nice gesture. It’s an urgent question because Resignation Nation is a real thing. This isn’t a call to cater or crater to people. It’s a call to genuinely care for people.
Usually, when an organization cares for the team, the team cares for the organization. On the contrary, if the team doesn’t feel cared for, they’ll start walking out the door. All of which leads to a question that is the foundation of the one I’ve already given you. This question is one every leader needs to quietly, honestly ask themselves:

Do I genuinely care about the people I lead?

Every great organizational culture begins here. A tell-tale sign of the answer is what happens when people leave. If the leader or leaders shrug their shoulders and take a “Next person up” mentality, it is quite revealing. The people there are just a means to an end.

And it’s also what it feels like to work there.

Honestly processing the question, “Do I genuinely care about the people I lead?” is one of the best gifts you can give your organization.

If the answer is yes, you’ll thrive in the days ahead. If the answer is no, you might just have found your answer to the question:

“What’s it feel like to work here?”

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