The most powerful tool available to improve a struggling business is to ask open-ended questions of all employees, right down to the lowest paid or most junior person in the company. In fact, be smart about the process and start with the lowest paid employees, working your way up the pay chart, rather than the other way around.

What questions should you ask? Consider:

  • What is your job title and description?
  • What do you actually do every day?
  • When you wake up each morning, what 3 things immediately come to mind for your job that are critical to the business and that are your responsibility?
  • What is great about your job and your company?
  • What is wrong with the company? Why does the business struggle?

If you have created an environment of safety and openness (the Maxwell Smart cone of silence), here is what you will learn:

  • In 100% of troubled companies, the actual work done by most employees does not match their job description (making the org. chart useless and creating pay inequities) and most employees don’t know the three items that are critical and that are their responsibility
  • In 100% of troubled companies, most employees do not view their actual job or critical responsibilities in the same way as the CEO thinks they should
  • Employees are often way smarter and more caring than senior management believes – the reason the company is troubled is never a mystery if you listen to the people doing the work
  • Senior management’s diagnosis of the problem is almost always through a bias filter that is influenced by career, pride and ego. The truth comes from employees down the org chart

This is the power of asking and listening…. of empowering and encouraging the team to be part of the solution.

One of the first thing we do when starting a new turnaround is a “Listening Tour”. We meet one on one with as many employees as possible, ask the good and the bad – and we listen – for an hour or more with each employee.

You don’t need to be an external turnaround leader to do this. If you are currently CEO of a troubled organization, try it. Go on a listening tour.

The experience is empowering to employees, bonding, morale changing and the insight is always incredible – it will set your agenda for the year.