Dr. Jimmie Flores

Month: January 2021

True Leaders Encourage Openness

Recently, I spoke with a colleague who expressed how unhappy she is with her manager and some of the executives in the company.  After working with this pharmaceutical organization for more than a decade, she is a top performer and compensated well for her work.
However, she is looking for a job elsewhere.

I asked her why she is so unhappy, and she responded:
Let me share a quick example … we are asked for feedback on how to make the organization better, and how to improve the quality of services we offer to the customers … but our feedback goes nowhere. As a result, customers are continuously upset!”
Feedback that Goes Nowhere
Wait! I’ve worked in companies where the leadership team takes the same approach. For example, employee feedback questionnaires are requested by HR on topics ranging from compensation to working remotely, and the expectation is that changes will be adopted.
Yet … nothing happens!
I remember a workplace situation where the marketing department employees asked the executives to seek advice from them before launching new products. The leaders agreed that input from the marketing folks was important, and they agreed to comply.
You guessed it! When new services were introduced a few months later, the marketing department was mostly left out of the discussion. They were told the market was changing too quickly, and there was not enough time for collaboration.
Without Openness There is no Buy-In
The overarching point I’m making here relates to the culture of the work environment. To create an open and transparent culture, it’s essential for leaders to be engaged with all levels of the organization.
A key point to remember is the frontline employees are often the ones closest to the customers, which means they have direct knowledge regarding the strategies that are working, and those that are falling short.
Therefore, the smart leaders are constantly seeking ideas from these individuals, such as asking the following types of questions:

  • What are the customers saying about our new products?” 
  • Do we need to provide additional training to help you excel in your position?” 
  • How happy are the customers about the delivery time of the service?” 
  • “From what you are seeing and hearing from customers, what should we do differently?” 
  • What are the main complaints you are hearing from customers?” 
  • If you were in my shoes as the CEO of the company, what would you do to improve the quality of our products and services?”

As you can see with the list of questions noted here, the leaders want to know both what is working and what needs to be improved. By improving areas of concern from employee feedback, customer satisfaction also improves.
Here’s an important point: I would rather hear bad news upfront from my employees than wait until the concern is too late to fix. In other words, it’s best to identify a problem before hundreds of customers are upset with the company. Given the rise of social media platforms, bad news travels much faster today than in the past, and it might destroy a brand in short order.
An open culture begins with leaders who are unafraid to hear the truth. Thus, humility is an important value that must be espoused by everyone.
In fact, bad news should be taken as good news. It’s better to have a pulse on how the employees and customers feel about the company than to operate in a manner where the radar is in the off position.

Our Uniqueness is the Difference-Maker

While reading the book Discover the True North Fieldbook, I came across a thought-provoking question:
If I were to disappear, what would people miss?
If you think about this question a bit, it’s really asking each of us what we bring to the table. In other words, how do your unique qualities make a difference?

The True Experience is Now

Many years ago, I worked for a manager who made the following comment:
We have to execute this plan absolutely perfectly, and there can be zero deviation from it!”
There were about eight people in the room, and we all agreed. It was essential to carry out the plan exactly as written, and we were going to stick with it no matter what! After all, the leadership team was involved in creating the magnificent plan, so we thought it must be good!

After the initial phase, we realized it was already falling short of expectations. For example, the plan required managers from several departments to be engaged at the same time, and this aspect never materialized, as some of them were continually putting out fires. They were too busy to help execute the plan. We needed to allow room for modifications to be made.
Is Planning Bad?
It makes sense that lacking a plan is counterproductive. However, a good mindset to embrace is that plans are inherently going to have weak areas. Therefore, plans should be built on the idea that changes will need to take place.
For example, let’s assume you drive the same route to work every day. You leave the house at the same time and usually arrive at your workplace on schedule.
One day, your city is deluged with a strong and persistent rainstorm. A street on your work route is marked as a low-water crossing area and should be avoided.
It’s early in the morning, and the city officials have yet to close off this street, but you know it’s dangerous.
From your standpoint, the plan calls for you to drive this direct route to work, but things have changed. Given the warning signals, choosing the longer route in this situation is the best course of action.
The point here is, yes, the planning exercise is smart, but it’s even smarter to be aware when it’s time to pivot from the plan or even abandon it altogether.
Electrician Who Became a Dentist
Many times, our career paths and goals can change as different opportunities arise.
I have a friend here in San Antonio who came to the States from Lagos, Nigeria. When we first met, he mentioned his job at a busy electrical company in his home country. He enjoyed the work, and he earned enough to keep his family comfortable.
However, when he moved to San Antonio, he realized his passion was dentistry. At the age of 44, he applied and was accepted into dental school. At 49, he graduated as a dentist, and set up his own dental practice shortly thereafter.
I spoke to him recently, and he is delighted with his new career. He specializes in helping low-income families receive dental care. I’m sure he could earn significantly more by targeting a more affluent demographic group, but that’s not why he became a dentist.
He changed his career plans to do something he loves, which is to provide important dental care to people who may not be able to afford it otherwise.

The planning effort is good but be willing and ready to take a different course of action when you observe a problem or an opportunity.

The True Experience is Now

As we barrel into 2021 with so much still unknown, my plan is to focus on what is right in front of me as much as possible.
One of my 2021 goals is to experience what is true, what is now.
It saddens me to share with you that the harshest consequences of the coronavirus disease reached the inner circle of my friends over the holidays, as we lost a wonderful friend from church due to COVID-19. As one can expect, the emotional impact of this loss was significant on her family. We were also able to observe the beautiful celebration of her life, which caused me to ponder the importance of focusing on the present.

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