Seclusion and Delusion in the Ivory Tower

Siloed executives can lead to terrible organizational decision making. But by embracing this one thing, you and your organization can avoid unforced errors and discuss what is really occurring in your company.

While it isn’t an exact science, executives in the so-called “C Suite” often rise to the top because they exhibit certain qualities. Some of those qualities are consistently building and nurturing relationships, being goal-driven, and being generous. 

Ultimately, many of these qualities rely on that individual’s ability to work with colleagues and to truly understand the inner workings of the business.

However, as the promoted individual spends more time in the C Suite, he or she begins to lose touch with what is actually going on in their organization. More time spent with other C Suite decision makers and less time spent with middle management and line staff is a recipe for disaster.

I have seen it in my own career. 

I have spent 30 years working in the hospitality industry and, over the course of my career, opened six hotels. Now, I am a sales and marketing consultant for hotels and resorts. While I have worked with some truly outstanding executives, CEOs and hotel owners, I have noticed this siloing effect in many organizations. What happens is that vice presidents, directors, managers, and even human resources operate in survival mode and sometimes make uninformed decisions. Often, those decisions are devoid of any insight as to how their decisions affect frontline operations and staff. The result is dissension, confusion, and a fight for survival among divisions and staff members.

The Solution: Organizational Culture

Luckily, organizations and C Suite executives can mitigate this problem—or eliminate it entirely. What must be done is to embrace a positive organizational culture that prioritizes transparency and open communication.

As you likely know, a company’s culture is a company’s personality. It defines the environment in which employees work. A positive company culture flows from the top down, so if senior executives don’t take it seriously, the organization’s culture is bound to be negative—even toxic. 

However, a positive company culture pays off in spades. Employees who believe in their company’s shared values are bound to feel more vital, engaged, impactful, and productive. And from there, employees who feel this way undoubtedly increase any company’s bottom line. 

Therefore, to remove the possibility of siloed C Suite executives, be encouraged to actively promote transparency in your organizational culture. By embracing communication and transparency, you will raise your awareness of what is actually occurring in your organization. With your own eyes, you will be seeing and hearing the facts, rather than simply reading an Excel sheet, management report or hearing about potential issues third or fourth-hand. 

But what does actively promote transparency mean? On one level, this requires you to get out of your office. Go meet middle management and even more junior employees. Engage in an honest, respectful dialogue. Encourage your counterparts to deliver both good and bad feedback on their working conditions and their ability to effectively do their job. Beyond face-to-face meetings, create an outlet—whether it is an email account or something else—where employees can anonymously share comments or feedback. 

Along with this, actively encourage employees to use this outlet. Even though it exists, employees may feel reticent or anxious to give real, honest feedback. Make it clear that all feedback is welcome and that, under no circumstances, will you punish the employee for delivering feedback. 

Five Key Takeaways for Senior Leadership:

Considering the importance of company culture to avoid this Ivory Tower effect, what can Vice Presidents and C suite executives do to prevent siloed towers of information?

Here are five key takeaways.

First, make it a priority to build a positive organizational culture. By reading this article, you are already on your way. Take ownership of your culture and ensure that it prizes values like open communication and transparency.

Next, routinely solicit feedback, whether that is through face-to-face meetings, an anonymous inbox, or something else. Emphasize honest feedback—no matter how awkward it may be.

Third, keep your ego in check. It can be difficult to hear negative feedback. Put aside your ego and objectively analyze the feedback that you are receiving.

Fourth, write your shared values on paper. Distribute those values so employees are crystal clear about what you and your company stand for.

Finally, implement the feedback you’ve received. Feedback isn’t helpful in and of itself. You need to take action and continue to keep the communication channels open.

By following the key takeaways above, you can avoid the Ivory Tower dilemma and make more informed decisions to improve your company’s culture and in so doing, your bottom line. 
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