Are You In The Leadership Bubble?

Do you know what’s really happening in your organization or are you “in a bubble”?   When leaders become disconnected from what is happening on the front lines, it’s easy to miss important signals that ultimately can impact your company’s success.  So how do you know if you’re “in the bubble”?  Here’s a few indicators:

  • You conduct an employee engagement survey and are surprised by the results.
  • You hear about a potential issue and start asking questions only to find out that everyone but you already knows about it
  • You only get information that has been filtered by your direct reports
  • You don’t routinely hold face-to-face meetings with employees and there are departments and offices that you haven’t visited in a long time
  • You are seldom challenged by your direct reports and you hardly ever hear any “bad news”
  • Your direct reports recommend promoting a high potential employee and you don’t know who they are talking about
  • You missed a financial target and never saw it coming

If a few of these indicators sound like your situation, it’s time to get out of your bubble and find out what’s really going on in your organization.   Here’s a few suggestions that worked for me.

  • Routinely conduct walk-abouts, stopping at various employee offices and asking employees about how things are going.  Employees love the fact that you care enough to stop by and that you value their input.
  • Periodically schedule employee roundtables with 6-8 employees to chat about a specific topic. I scheduled one of these meetings for a former CEO who was looking for input about how to effectively lead the millennial workforce.  He obtained excellent insight and the participants raved about the opportunity to chat with him for weeks.
  • Have lunch in your company cafeteria and invite yourself to sit with a group of employees.  This is one my favorites.  I usually look for a table with employees that I don’t know.  I ask if I can join them, introduce myself and then find out about what they do, their families and hobbies.  Eventually we talk about how things are going at work.
  • When getting briefed by your direct reports, ask them to bring employees who have been involved with the topic to help present the information.  You can ask the employee questions to get 1st hand information and employees get an opportunity to shine in front of their leadership.
  • Look for opportunities to kick-off training classes, leadership workshops or other group activities where you can connect with employees and have an impromptu Q&A.

With so many external commitments, meetings and a full schedule of things to do, it’s easy to find yourself “in the bubble.”  One way to break free is to schedule “engagement time” on your calendar to do the types of things I mentioned above.  It takes time and commitment to stay engaged with your front line employees but once it becomes a habit you will find that life outside the bubble is much more rewarding for you and for your organization.

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