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What do We do if the Leadership Team and the CEO Hear Conflicting Messages During Rounds?

Question

My direct reports include leaders for environmental services and food and nutrition. When these two department directors round and review their department scorecards, the departments they rounded on are always positive in their comments. However, when the CEO rounds, everyone opens up with examples of low performance. How can we fix this discrepancy?

Answer

We have found the benefit of the interdepartmental survey is that managers will, over time, relay their concerns openly, thereby reducing the closed-door communications and side conversations. I recommend that the CEO review a copy of the department survey before rounding so that he or she can reference it in response to conflicting information. For example, when the CEO hears a complaint he or she might say, “From reviewing the last survey, I think the department did fairly well. Can I ask what type of feedback you are providing on that tool? The tool is very important for getting leaders to really open up dialogue and make sure we are helping deliver great internal service. I know (name) in that department would want to know this. I also know for those who provide internal service, hearing what is working well is important too.”

The CEO must ensure that he or she is not unintentionally creating an I-am-the-only-one-who-can-get-things-done atmosphere because leaders will turn to the CEO with complaints instead of working directly with other department leaders. Instead, I recommend CEOs coach leaders to speak directly with others. The CEO must reinforce the key role of the department leader and urge staff to talk directly to that leader.

Leaders can also reinforce the role of the survey tool as an opportunity to create dialogue on both wins and opportunities for improvement at department meetings and Leadership Development Institutes.