St. Vincent was fond of the classic adage, “Totum opus nostrum in operatione consistit.” “All of our work consists in action.” Or, again, “All our works end up in action.” or, more loosely, “Action is our entire task.” This applies to everyone, especially leaders.
Claire Lew wrote, in Action is the Answer on the blog Signal v. Noise:
It’s not what you say that matters — it’s what you do.
I observed the truth of this old adage, firsthand, about six years ago.
At the time, I wasn’t CEO of Know Your Company. I was an employee at another company.
As an employee, I remember making a suggestion to our CEO about how we should market a new program…
I’ll never forget how casually it was brushed aside.
I remember asking our CEO a question via email about a new idea I had, and if it was something he’d be open to…
I’ll never forget that he never responded to my email.
I remember pitching a new approach to thinking about our website to our CEO…
I’ll never forget how defensive he got about why things were the way things were.
The dismissal, inaction, and defensiveness said to me loud and clear: I don’t want your feedback. I don’t plan to do anything with it. We often forget as leaders how much our actions say — or don’t say.
Suffice to say, I never spoke up and offered honest feedback after those instances, going forward. Studies have found that the biggest reason for why people don’t speak up at work is because they believe it is futile. Employees don’t think anything will happen with their feedback… so they don’t give it.
I am living proof of that statistic.
If you want honest feedback, you must act on the feedback you’ve gotten in some way. Prove to employees it’s worth their effort to be honest with you.
No matter how many specific questions you ask or how well you receive the feedback, what you do with that feedback will always carry more weight than anything else.
“Lead by example” or “Lead from the front” are common sayings we like to read in management books and nod our heads to. But do we internalize and actively practice those sentiments enough?
If you’re wrestling with the questions of how to better retain your employees, how to improve your company culture, how to cultivate more honest feedback from your employees…
Action is the answer.
Substitute the word “members” or “confreres” or “sisters” for “employees”. Substitute CEO for President, or Superioress General, or Director General for CEO…. Think about it…