Sometimes the messenger gets shot

I recently had a big growth opportunity. Yeah go me! I am learning. I was contracted by a smaller organization to do some discovery work. Ya know the usual, what is working, what isn’t, where can we improve, what do people like, what don’t they like, what do they need?… All the things that organizations who do not use engagement surveys need to hear from their employees, especially when there are signs like high turnover, lots of HR complaints, lots of scuttlebutt, and/or high absenteeism (to name a few easy to spot signs). Sidebar: If you are an organization over 25 I strongly recommend a mechanism to consistently (at a frequency, annually works) and anonymously obtain feedback. So back to my story…. I was contracted for this work within a culture that was new to me, an industry I wasn’t familiar with, in a community I didn’t know. So triple blind… but I know that the issues within organizations are people issues that span regardless of where you sit. I did my interviews with the questions approved from my contract and wrote up my report. My report was balanced. There were lots of wonderful qualities and characteristics people appreciated, enjoyed, and valued that could be capitalized on. And then there were some not great things that could be explored for people to have a more fulfilling, productive, and effective work experience. Ya know the stuff they probably new and didn’t, but the reason they hired me…..It was balanced – you will just have to take my word on it.

Now I get it… change is hard. It is really painful when you see the issues, black and white on the page. I coach people after they receive some tough 360 feedback and I have been the receiver of it. I get it. You wanted to know… but now that you know you may wish you didn’t. If it wasn’t right in front of you, you could still bury your head in the sand, making up all the wonderful assumptions that keep one the hero (or victim or whatever role you are going for). Reaction 1 to my report. “Great work, a lot of wonderful info here. Appreciate the insights and recommendations.” Reaction #2 a few weeks later I got the call… “Rachael I cannot speak with you professionally or personally until the dust settles on this. This work has ruffled a lot of feathers…I believe you did what we asked you to do, but people here have a lot to wade through and are pretty upset”. Uhm What???? I of course said what a consultant is to say… “I am sorry to hear that, thank you for providing the feedback, is there something I could have done differently…”.

But WHAT??? This kind of ego response to what employees are experiencing and the change they want to see, is why the organization and leadership are in place they are in. The work may seem overwhelming when you see all the concerns (but that’s why we have consultants….). The good news is, there is always low hanging fruit – and there was plenty of that- and the only way to go is up! That is what we call a growth mindset.

What I learned professionally.

  1. I dodged a bullet. If this was the stuff people gave me after a 20 minute mostly phone interviews, what was further under the covers that sponsors were really going to freak out about? How much push me/pull me would I have experienced working with them?
  2. The second dodged bullet. If this is how the leaders were going to respond to data, how would their egos get in the way of the real change that needs to happen?
  3. Don’t price anything with the ‘hopes’ for tomorrow. I undersold my services, hoping that would get in me in the door for the future work. It was a strategy, but one for this type of discovery work I most likely won’t do again (unless the contract included doing something after we found out what was needed).
  4. I am good at what I do. I delivered a balanced account of what I heard from the people I interviewed.
  5. Recommendations were not in my original statement of work. But being the diligent and eager person I am, I put in a short page of areas they could focus on. Not all I could help with… some way outside my lane, so it wasn’t all self-serving. I won’t do that again… stay within the statement of work and allow for the next conversation.

What I learned personally.

  1. I am so much more confident than I was 2 years ago! Yeah!! Old Rachael would have been crushed by this perceived set back and flogged myself for months about what I did wrong or swearing to never do that type of work again. Nope. Not this one.
  2. I am living more in the present. I took what I could learn from this. Did a 15 minute lessons learned, obtained third party feedback and moved on.
  3. I deliver messages in a way people can hear them. They may not have liked it, but they heard it. I am kind and direct.

This was a great lesson to have after a year in business for myself. I am so much stronger and have a great story. That is the beauty of experience. The only way out is through. And I am still standing firm in the game. This may just end up being one of my great appreciative inquiry stories!

Published by rachaelsarahgass

Working mom, wife, friend, sister, organizational psychologist, learner, coach. Kindness Counts. People First. Integrity Always.

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