We Need More Speed Bumps

Leanne Buehler, Ph.D., Principal Science and Innovation AdvisorUncategorized1 Comment

Lately I’ve been reflecting on my own engagement at work. What gives my work meaning? Am I on the right path (turning 40 will do that to you!). I started to think about the core of what I do as an employee insights consultant. Every day I give people feedback. It’s not necessarily my feedback, but feedback none-the-less. Sometimes it’s really great feedback and there is much to recognize and celebrate. Sometimes it’s feedback that is less than desirable and hard to hear. In all cases, these conversations are ones of vulnerability. Whether in an employee engagement survey or a 360 review, it takes courage to ask, “How I’m doing?” and to be open to hearing the answer.

When I think about what gives my work meaning, it boils down to this: giving leaders employee feedback makes them SLOOOW DOWN. I equate this to the speed bump in the parking lot or the neighborhood street. You are driving along, cruising on your way to some destination. If you are like me, you are half eyes on the road and half in your head (I admit it!); usually something like, “What emails do I need to return? Did I remember to sign my son’s permission slip? When did I say I would sent out that proposal? What should we have for dinner? Ugh, what is this song I’m listening to!?”

…And then the speed bump. This “obstacle” jolts you back to observing reality. Oh, yes: there are kids, or a sharp turn, or a pedestrian crossing. These potential hazards are there regardless of the raised nonconcrete slab, but it reminds us to be aware so we can decide how quickly to make that turn or have eyes-wide-open for children that might unexpectedly appear in the road.

Asking for feedback via employee surveys has the same affect. So often leaders are cruising on auto-pilot, working through their to-do list and making progress on their key responsibilities. Employee feedback brings awareness to things that are already happening so that we can be thoughtful in how we lead and respond. Do employees need help in navigating change? Am I doing enough to show appreciation for their efforts? Am I prioritizing professional development to ensure my best people stay?

As my years of experience grow in working with leaders of companies big and small, experienced or newbies, it’s becoming more and more obvious to me that the people who inspire us to follow them are those who are in touch with reality, value our contributions, and connect with us on a personal and emotional level. Incorporating methods to gather employee feedback so we slow down enough to be mindful and aware in our decision making and communication provides critical insight and accountability to leadership. And if the work I do as a consultant creates a speed bump for a leader that leads to reflection and growth, I’ll count that as a meaningful day at the office.

What do you do to “slow down” and be mindful as a leader?

  • Ryan Shiroishi says:

    This is the best analogy I have heard in a long time, thank you for sharing! Being in an individual contributor role, I still feel it is vital to have speed bumps in my life that allow me to slow down and reflect. On a micro level, I frequently use the “5 second rule” before making decisions. This has benefited me in many ways! Also, daily mindfulness practices, long-cardio exercises, and disconnecting from technology on a nice camping trip!