Missed Insight Opportunity

Saturday, 02 November 2013 05:22

I've been thinking a lot about a huge insight "miss" I witnessed recently. I was teaching a session at a company's US headquarters, and the sponsor had arranged for the CEO to do a Q&A session with the group of executives we had in class. In the course of that session, the CEO told a story about an encounter he'd had just that morning. Apparently, as he was walking up the steps into the building, he opened the door for an employee and said, "Good morning!" in a cheerful voice. The woman – who clearly did not recognize him as the CEO – replied in a cranky and sarcastic voice, "Just another day in paradise." The CEO was so stunned that he was speechless and just stood there inside the building, watching her walk away.

As he was telling the story to us later that same day, he said he felt it had been such a missed opportunity. What he wished he'd said was, "Pack up your stuff and take your bad attitude out of here, because we don't need it!"
As he said that, I sat in the audience with the same stunned and speechless look on my own face that the CEO had had that morning. That's what you think the missed opportunity was? To bitch her out and fire her? Dude, that is not the missed opportunity. The missed opportunity was not saying to her, "Hi. My name is [X], and I'm the CEO of this company. Can we find 15 minutes on our calendars to sit down today? I'd really like to know what we're doing so wrong that it's causing you to feel this way."

Rather than recognize this as an opportunity to gather valuable intelligence about what was really going on with the rank-and-file of the organization – and, presumably, to fix it – he had wrongly assumed that this woman's perspective was (a) isolated and (b) unjustified. He attributed her response to her own, individual bad attitude, rather than investigating whether it was actually a reflection of a systemic issue that could – and should – be addressed.

But why? Listening to his story, it seemed like the most plausible explanation was one of the Four Horsemen of the Emotional Apocalypse: denial. Rather than believe that the company had a problem, he chose to believe that the woman had a problem, because it was a lot more palatable. It was a great example of why I place so much emphasis on the removal of blockers to insight when I'm engaging in Impasse to Insight Method work with clients. Fear, denial, guilt and anxiety can make us blind to insights that are right there, staring us in the face. Those emotions are part of the human condition, but if you want your insight-generation efforts to be successful, you've got to check them at the door!

More in this category: « Thoroughly Ordinary (or Not)

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