Leaders – you should call, email, tweet, and instant message Kelly Ripa to thank her for what she did for you this week. If you listen closely to what she said, you will learn what most employees think and feel, but will never, ever tell you.
For those of you who didn’t follow the details of her story, she went live, on TV, and blasted her leadership for the lack of consideration. Then why am I telling you to thank her? Because she showed you what your people really think and feel.
I have consulted to leaders and companies for 20 years on leadership and teamwork. I have spoken to thousands of employees personally about how they feel about their leaders and companies. I have done surveys, read the results, examined research. I can tell you for a fact, a majority of employees feel just like her, but don’t have the guts to tell you. They tell me. They tell their colleagues, their family, their friends. But they don’t tell you.
“I am pretty sure there are trained snipers with tranquilizer guns aimed at me if I go off script.”
She started with this statement about fearing being shot for saying what she was about to say. This is real, leaders. In most companies, employees are truly frightened to tell you what they think and feel. Why should they? You control their pay, their livelihood, their career path. And they know from experience that some people who tell the truth get sidelined, blackballed, or fired. Don’t believe me. Google “Edelman Trust Barometer” and see how little trust there is for leadership in business, government, and society in general. Look at the engagement data which shows that only 1/3 of your people are truly engaged, which means 2/3 don’t care and won’t tell you that they don’t care.
Communication, consideration, and respect.
She then spoke from the heart about how she was wronged and deserved better. She spoke about the lack of communication, consideration, and respect. In her case, a major decision about the show that she has co-hosted for years was hidden from her. Her partner was leaving, and she didn’t know. The fact that their colleagues are leaving is not often the issue. The issue is that consistently leaders make decisions with not a thought about informing the people it affects. Reorganizations, strategy changes, and the like are often not explained to leaders. I have heard many times from leaders about getting a 3-sentence email about a significant change going on their company. No talking. No meeting. No explanation. Yes this is from executives to their leaders. How do these leaders feel? Like Kelly Ripa: hurt, angry, and betrayed. Do they say anything? No. Fear of snipers.
“I don’t consider this just a workplace; this is a second home.”
She said this. And this is how your people feel. They may complain about policies, and they may look like they don’t want to be there. But this is where they spend most of their waking hours. It is in fact a second home. They are not engaged because you don’t treat them like the place is theirs. Your treat them it is yours – the place of the elite people capable enough to climb the ladder to the top. They just happen to work there for you. Very few companies actually treat their employees like they are family. Some would say this is an outdated concept from 50 years ago or more to treat employees like family. NO. The leading companies of today treat their employees like family. I spent 2 weeks recently interviewing people at a very well-known technology company. They treat employees like family. Yes there is food you can grab from the fridge or pantry like at home. More than that, their leadership is open and honest with them. In return, their employees speak their mind. They trust their employees to set deadlines and meet them. They expect there will be problems, and they don’t yell at people for making them. It is like a home. A loving home. Dare I say the word “love” in regard to work? Yes, I do, because if you want the best out of people, you have to respect them, which is actually loving.
So what should you do?
•Tell them as soon as you know – Hiding doesn’t work long term. Hiding information about change only builds resentment. The longer you wait to tell people what is about to happen, the more they expect from you and the angrier they get. If might feel easier to delay telling them, but it only makes things worse. Tell them as soon as you know. This will build trust and good will.
•Play safely – Create a safe environment for openness. Don’t believe me? Recent research by Google published in The New York Times showed that the key to the best-performing teams is creating psychological safety. If you want the best from people, they found you need to feel psychologically safe to be open and honest with your team. This is not coming from some left wing, not-for-profit feel-good company. This is one of the biggest for-profit companies in the country after 3 years of study of their own data by some of the smartest people in the world. You cannot create an open, honest trusting environment talking in code. Tell the truth.
Then send a note to @kellyripa thanking her for teaching you how to be a better leader.