In the initial results, a vast majority of the survey panelists—generally 75% or above—reported that they regularly take these FLIP actions—focus, listen, involve and personalize.
Yet, below the surface, the survey results exposed fissures—not only among different demographic groups but also within individuals.
The biggest demographic difference is among those who say their employer’s performance is still hurting from the recession. There also are differences between respondents who work for publicly-traded and private companies.
And while many said they listen to employees and involve them either “most of the time” or “all the time” on the multiple-choice questions, their write-in comments told a different story.
For example, the 43% who say their employer’s performance is still hurting from the recession report more challenges focusing than others. This is especially true for those who work for publicly-traded companies. Of this group:
- 46% said they lose track of work priorities most or all of the time when there are new demands on their time, compared to 22% for everyone else.
- 44% also said they get distracted most or all of the time when they get new electronic messages, such as emails, texts or notifications from social media networks, compared to 21% for everyone else.
As for the write-in comments, even some of those who said they seldom or never lose their focus expressed a desire to become more focused.
For the question, “What behaviors or work practices do you think you need to adopt or improve to be successful in the future?” common responses were “greater concentration,” “less distraction,” and “identify goals and work to achieve them daily.”
Others said they want to: “listen to others better”; “to interact one-on-one with employees;” and “more interaction and visioning with my employees.”
Most of the self-improvement behaviors or practices mentioned were skills around emotional intelligence, time management and efficiency, rather than anything specifically around managing complexity, uncertainty or ambiguity.
Similar themes emerged on the question “What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your work these days?”
Many of the responses clustered around focusing, setting priorities, communicating up and with peers, eliminating waste and coping with greater work demands with the same or reduced resources.
As for the write-in question, “What are you the most optimistic about regarding your work?” 8% said “nothing.” One person elaborated, “I’m not. It is sad.”
Others said they were optimistic about the people they worked with, the customers they served, demand picking up, the challenges they faced, and the work they were performing. As one person commented, “Successful in my efforts so far and that is self-motivating to keep going and strive more.”
While the majority expressed optimism for the future, many of the responses throughout the survey concern me for these reasons:
- FLIP habits should help us better lead and manage in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world in which we work. (For background, see FLIP to thrive in our VUCA world.)
- To be successful, you just can’t go through the motions of FLIPPING. You’ve got to FLIP with feeling. If you’ve got a “check it off the box” mentality about focusing, listening, involving and personalizing, you and your employees are probably noticing that you’re acting with duty, not with passion, which sends the wrong message.
- And even if you’re practicing FLIP habits, who’s to say your employees even notice and appreciate your actions? If you’re too subtle or listless in the way you FLIP, you might as well be standing still. It’s like the old saying: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear or see it, does it really matter? You need to cut through the clutter, FLIP with confidence and lead from where you are.
Considering that survey respondents were self-reporting their FLIP behavior, the cracks could be greater than what the naked eye first sees, especially in organizations that haven’t yet recovered from the recession or are undergoing major transformations now.
For example, the gaps between what leaders and managers say they’re doing and what their employees experience them doing may be greater than managers and leaders—and those of us who support them and organizations—would like to admit. At least this is my hypothesis, especially noticing the frustration expressed in the write-in comments.
We live and work in challenging times. Yet we can bloom, like the prickly cactus, and build a better future.
Right now though, please focus on taking the survey as having more data will give us greater insights. Also, encourage other managers and project team leaders to do so too.