Leadership experts, Karin Hurt and David Dye, share what leaders need to know (but their teams won’t tell them).
Laura, an IT Vice President at a mid-sized financial services company, was excited to be headed to the field for a few skip level meetings to see their new system in action.
Her team had been holding user-experience calls every week and all the feedback had been positive. She was hoping to collect some great stories to share with her boss about how the new system was making things easier for the customer service reps and ultimately for their customers.
She did a little MBWA (management by walking around) before the meeting. She sat next to one rep and said, “Can you show me your favorite parts of the new system?”
The rep attempted to pull up the first screen. But after 5 minutes they were both still staring at an hourglass waiting for the page to load.
The rep looked at Laura apologetically. “Oh, I’m sorry to waste your time. This usually takes a while.”
Laura’s jaw dropped. The vendor had promised the new system would be 7 times faster, not slower.
“Can you show me another page?”
“Is it always like this?”
“Oh, yeah. We’re used to it at this point, but the system has some other nice features.”
Laura thanked the rep and ran off to call IT.
After 10 minutes of testing, they realized that the servers in that center didn’t have the capacity needed to run the new system.
Hundreds of reps had been suffering through a ridiculous wait that was wasting their and their customers’ time. Week after week, supervisors had sat on user experience calls, fully aware of the issue, and had not said a word. No one ever raised the issue.
After replacing the server and ensuring everything was back on track, Laura went back to the reps on the user experience team and asked why they had never brought this up.
FOSU (Fear of Speaking Up) at its Finest
“Well, no one ever asked us about the speed. So we just thought it was supposed to be that way.”
Then they continued: “Our boss told us that it was our job to be change agents and role model our excitement for the new system no matter what. Under no circumstances were we to be negative. So we just smiled, sucked it up, and dealt with it.”
That’s the danger of FOSU.
Your team knows things you need to know. If you want your team to tell you the truth, you need to ask. They need to know you want to hear what they have to say.
5 Ways to Eliminate FOSU and Get Your Team to Tell You the Truth
Ask For Tough Feedback
Laura’s team was asking, but still didn’t hear the truth because the employees on the call were being coached to be positive. If you want to know what’s not working ask what’s not working.
“What drives you crazy about this new system?”
“What about this project concerns you?”
“How is this change going to make things worse for our customers?
Reward Truth Telling
As with any behavior, you get more of what you encourage and celebrate and less of what you ignore. When an employee brings you an issue in a productive way, thank them publically and explain why it’s so important.
Build Problem Solving Competencies
“Don’t bring me a problem without a solution” is the fastest way to get your team to stop bringing you problems. Work to build problem-solving competencies on your team. Try this simple 9 Whats Coaching Model technique as a start.
Watch Your Reactions
We get it. No one likes to hear bad news. But if you want your team to tell you the truth, watch your verbal and non-verbal reactions. Starting with “Thank you so much for raising this issue” and go from there.
Acknowledge the Feedback
“I don’t know why I speak up, no one does anything with what I say.” is possibly one of the most uttered phrases in companies today. Human beings want to know they’re heard. Be sure your validating feedback with a “Thank you and I hear you” statement and a next step. Of course, you can’t always do what they want, but be sure to leave people feeling genuinely heard.
Your turn: share your best practices for eliminating FOSU from your team.
Karin Hurt and David Dye help leaders achieve breakthrough results without losing their soul. They are keynote leadership speakers, trainers, and the award-winning authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Karin is a top leadership consultant and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive, elected official, and president of Let’s Grow Leaders, their leadership training and consulting firm.
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