looking for the canary

For our evolutionary accomplishments as humans — opposable thumbs, complex social structures, reality television, etc. — we are remarkably clueless when it comes to our own behavior. Self awareness is prized, but as Robert Sutton mentions in one of the first chapters of his book “Good Boss, Bad Boss“, whatever you think you know you are good at or bad with, it is probably something completely different.

So, it’s rare, even with an open door policy of management, that one of the “troops” is going to enter and tell you that you’re being a schmuck. ( And if they did, it would be even rarer for you to take it well. )  So, then, how are we to know when something is wrong with the department, group or team that we are leading?

It has been my experience that in any organization, large or small, the most junior of employees are the first one to notice that things aren’t going well. They may not be able to articulate the problem but things that are irking them tend to be symptoms of the issue. If they’re not sure what they should be doing day-to-day, try looking at project management. Maybe they don’t feel collaborative work environment; perhaps more senior team members are arguing or not being communicative. They might be perplexed as to the rationale behind project priorities; perhaps, the project is being influenced by unnecessary politics or is more complex than it needs to be.