I’ve paraphrased thereby reducing classiness – but hopefully not impact.
Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt used to tell his students that buyers of a 3/4″ drillbit didn’t need a drillbit. They needed a 3/4″ hole.
The drillbit is the product. And buying the product is the easy part. The hole is the result – the desired outcome, the visceral change. And that’s a harder one to define.
As work continues to move at a million miles per minute – as burnout remains high, mental health in legitimate crisis, and employee engagement at alarming levels of low…leaders need to pause and consider the hole.
You may see a problem, an opportunity. You want to engage your team in an important conversation. Or you need to build a capability. Or reprioritize initiatives. You need to enhance employee wellness or mitigate burnout. You need people to feel invested in, committed to; to believe they are collaborative designers of the change – not victims of it.
You need a drillbit. But before you scan the market, get so clear on what hole you need.
- Ask questions. Often. Good ones. And really listen to your teams. What are they saying? What are they notably not saying? Note word choice and tone as well as substance.
- Pulse often. Don’t wait for the annual survey with its presumptuous statistical validity and predictive analytic engine. Seriously – throw out a few questions to test the waters of experience. How are people doing – really? Where are they OK and where aren’t they?
- Link-and-label. Where are there already solutions alive and well in your organization that employees just can’t see or feel? Is there an EAP that isn’t well marketed? Do you have a company membership to LinkedIn Learning? Where do you have a hungry mentor and a needy mentee? Can you make that match waiting to happen?
- Respond visibly. The second worst thing you can do is not ask. The first worst? Asking and doing nothing with the insights. Don’t care how small or contained – do SOMETHING with the gift of candor your employees give you.