As former PayPal CEO (and current Gawker lawsuit funder) Peter Thiel told the Washington Post a few years back, "As CEO, you're somehow both the total insider and the total outsider at the same time. In some ways you're at the center of the organization. In other contexts, you're like the last person to know anything."
No matter how or how much you ask, your people are almost certainly reluctant to pass up bad news from the frontline of your organization or to own up to their own complaints. If you think that's only true of other bosses, then a recent Signal vs. Noise post from Know Your Company CEO Claire Lew is for you.
As the maker of a tool to increase feedback to executives, Lew and her team have spoken to over 10,000 employees at over 200 companies about the things they're afraid to tell their bosses (her post was also the pointer to the great Thiel quote above). Not only does almost every team have secrets it keeps from leadership, but these secrets roughly fall into three main themes, she insists.
Here are the three things Lew's research suggests your team too shy to tell you, though check out the complete post for many more details on each, as well as specific suggestions for what to do about these issues.
1. They could be contributing more.
"When asked through Know Your Company, 75 percent of employees said, 'Yes, there's an area outside my current role where I feel I could be contributing,'" reports Lew. "This is contrary to a common perception CEOs have: that their employees are slammed and completely at capacity."
Which isn't to say that your team isn't busy. Just that "they still hunger to grow, learn, and further their own abilities in ways that we as CEOs might not always be aware of," according to Lew.
2. They think your business is behind the curve.
It might sting a bit to hear, but "most employees believe their company is behind the curve in a certain area," according to Know Your Company's research.
"Employees frequently notice competitors pushing out ahead and doing things they wish their own company was doing. Seventy-six-percent of employees have said, 'Yes, I've seen something recently and thought to myself, I wish we'd done that'... Even further, 65 percent of employees said 'Yes, I've seen something a competitor has done recently that's really impressed me,'" Lew reports. That's a lot of unutilized suggestions.
3. They want more feedback (but not more performance reviews).
As Lew admits, it's hardly news that everyone detests the annual performance review ritual. But if you were unsure, Know Your Company's data confirms it. Still, despite this reality, "80 percent of employees want more feedback about their performance."
"What employees want instead [of formal reviews] is regular, helpful feedback. The more regular this feedback and interaction is with managers, the more engaged employees are," Lew insists.