I’ve been reminded recently how critical it is to have a pulse. In recent years, my partner stepped in when a TAB Member needed help running and selling his business after a terminal cancer diagnosis. Another Member had an accident and nearly lost his life. We never know when we might need to implement plans for our eventual departure. Having an exit strategy in place is vital, but I am talking about a different kind of pulse!
Just like we need to monitor our personal health, we need to check on the health of our businesses – regularly. We need to stay connected with others to know how they are feeling, and it’s not good enough to do that just once a year.
Recently, a TAB Member was surprised to learn that some of their employees were grumbling. It doesn’t matter what about. It might have been their compensation, their coworkers, their working conditions or their volume of work. The point is, they were grumbling and the owner did not know. Consequently, the owner did not address their concerns and was being characterized as not listening.
This Member had canvassed employees through a satisfaction survey six months prior and felt things were okay. But a lot can change in six months, and the employees were reacting to those changes. In order to address issues before they escalated, the owner had to move from a defensive position to one of being engaged and caring.
Another Member just lost a major client. The client was dissatisfied as the result of misinformation and some negative experiences. When the business owner found out, it was too late. The client had decided to take their business elsewhere. This can happen all too easily if we don’t regularly check in with our clients and customers.
Excellent leadership requires connection. To be a good leader means being consistently visible, communicating your passion, and living your commitment to your vision for the business, the project or the initiative. It also means observing if employees or clients are struggling to follow and helping them to get back on board. This continual attention to whether people are on the same page is what I mean by taking the pulse.
Another Member mentioned to me that if we only check in with the people we think need us, we may end up missing an opportunity to provide more value to everyone. We call that a lost opportunity.
How and how often do you keep a pulse on your key stakeholders: your customers, employees, your suppliers and other parties you depend upon? Do you do it frequently enough and thoroughly enough? When you ask people how things are going, and they say, “okay”, is that good enough? Do you meet with them personally and genuinely show that you care? Do you let them measure if you care, or do you determine things are “good enough” on your own? Do they know that you want the good, the bad and the ugly? When an employee gives you some information that is bad news, do you chastise them or praise them for bringing it to your attention?
When people share honestly with you, they are doing you a favor, just like the nurse who takes your pulse before you see your doctor. If your pulse is not good, thank the nurse. That person may have just saved your life.
We all have other KPI’s to watch to stay on track, but don’t forget the people. This feedback might just save a good employee or a good customer. Keep the pulse!
By Bob Dodge