Jack Welch (former Chairman of General Electric) said, “You pay a person for his or her hands, but they’ll give you their brains and their hearts for free. All you have to do is ask!”

When’s the last time you asked your employees for their opinions? Do you know how they feel about the current corporate culture? Do you know what they love about their work or hate about their jobs? Do you know what they would change about your company if they had the power to? Do you know what their goals are? Do they know what your goals are? Does anyone know what your company goals are?

Does anyone know what’s costing your company profits, profit margin, new customers, repeat business and employee retention? What does your team think about their current compensation plans? What’s more important to them; increased health benefits, more time off, dress-down days, free lunches once in a while or increased pay? Do they know what needs to be accomplished in order for them to realize these added benefits?

Why are their cliques? Does your team trust you? Do they trust the middle-managers? Do they think of their current employment as a career, or just a job until something better comes along?

The best way to find out is to ask! Just ask them!

Like all aspects of developing your business, building a strong corporate culture can’t happen overnight and it won’t happen on its own. You can’t conquer the world in one fell swoop, but you can take deliberate, calculated action steps on a daily basis to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

How about this for a first step: Create your own Team Member Evaluation. This doesn’t need to be scientific. Just think of all the questions you have about your team’s perceptions. What would you like to know from your team? Write down all the questions you have for them and then put it in a Word document.

Make sure your team knows what you intend to do with the feedback they give you. Make sure everyone knows that you want their “honest” opinions and that you won’t try to figure out who wrote the evaluations if people choose to keep their opinions anonymous. They should not feel threatened in any way. Remind them that in order for things to improve, you need the straight-scoop on what the biggest issues are. Also remind your team that “gossiping” and “complaining” will not improve things, but candid feedback with suggested solutions can be “step one” in the process of building an excellent place to work.

Once you have this valuable information, you’re well on your way, but the real power comes from how you use this information.

To get started, compile the survey responses so you and your executive team can clearly see all of the answers that were given to each question and then prepare a “Full Report” for your team where you will:

1.Provide a copy of all of the answers that were given for each question.
2.Write a thoughtful reply to each answer.
3.Let the team know what action steps are being formulated to address the points that make sense to address.
4.Provide the deadlines you’ve set for completing those action steps.
5.Provide the date you’ll send out a follow-up survey.

Let’s review each of those points:

1. Provide a copy of all of the answers that were given for each question.

All you have to do is create a document listing each question and under each question, type in each response to that question. To keep it authentic, I suggest you do not edit the answers; do not fix typos, do not fix misspellings, grammatical mistakes, or anything else. Instead, write it as it was written. The only exception to this is if you believe that “censoring” an answer is necessary to protect someone’s feelings (not the owner’s feelings, but another team member’s). You do not want anyone to be publically humiliated. Provide as much of the answer as you can, but please…protect people from being embarrassed by name (unless it is the owner).

2. Write a thoughtful reply to each answer.

Absolute humility, candor, and curiosity are a must! You and your executive team may be insulted or hurt by a particular answer (or answers). Please…humble yourselves because the point may be valid. Take the time to thoughtfully consider why that person may have written the answer that hurt your feelings. If after consideration you determine that the person has a point, admit it in your reply! It’s okay that you’re not perfect. It’s admirable that you admit it when you see your own shortcomings. In your reply, you can even say that it hurt you feelings, but you see the point and appreciate that this point was made. The more candid you are the better.

Other answers you will simply not agree with at all. Take this as a “teachable moment.” In your reply, explain to everyone why (specifically) you do not agree with what was stated. Beware that you don’t do this in a confrontational manner! That would be a big mistake. Instead, respectfully and specifically state your rationale for not agreeing with them. Remember…be constructive and instructive; not judgmental!

Other answers will include good ideas you hadn’t thought of before or that you haven’t acted on yet. They aren’t emotional; they’re just sound, tactical (or strategic) ideas. These are easy to reply to: Simply thank the person and let them know it’s a great idea!

3. Let the team know what action steps are being formulated to address the points that make sense to address.

When a team member makes a valid point, then something needs to happen in order to fix the problem or meet the opportunity being sought. In this section of the Full Report, explain specifically what action steps you have assigned to yourself, your executive team, or your individual team members to begin the process of getting things the way they should be. Be specific! This is an incredibly important step to give yourself credibility because asking for answers to your questions is great, but committing to do something specific based on the answers is demonstrating strong leadership. After all, nothing happens without action! Please make sure you have action steps to take advantage of every good idea presented to you. If you can’t address it quite yet (due to higher priority initiatives), simply give yourself the action step of revisiting this on a particular date (and be sure you stick with it…they’re watching!).

4. Provide the deadlines you’ve set for completing those action steps.

To say you’re committed to doing something (an action step) is fine, but without providing a deadline for completion, you aren’t really committed at all. You’re hopeful; but not committed. People want and deserve to what you’re going to do (the action step) and also when you’ll do it (the deadline). In doing this, you’re leading by example in building on your “culture of accountability.”

5. Provide the date you’ll send out a follow-up survey.

A follow-up survey is a survey you’ll put out at a later date to get your team’s feedback on how things are progressing since the Full Report was issued. You’ll ask if the action steps promised were completed on time. You’ll ask if the leadership team (or you, the owner) have done a great, fair, or poor job in making improvements that were identified in the initial survey. You’ll allow your team to openly and candidly evaluate YOUR performance!

If your first reaction to this is that you’re the owner and that you are not accountable to the people you pay, then I suggest you find a great book on leadership and dig in because you have much to learn. “Leadership by example” is just under “integrity” as the top attributes of a leader. You expect your team to deliver on their promises, so you must also. You expect your team to be accountable, so you must also. You will be highly respected when you lead this way.

Please use your follow-up survey as an opportunity to ask any new questions you may have that were not asked in the initial survey. You may even want to repeat some of the questions that were in the initial survey to see if people are thinking differently now. When you ask a new series of questions (or repeat questions), you’ll get new answers that will allow you and your executive team to consider, then reply to, then act on, and get results from. This puts you in a perpetual mode of asking questions, getting answers, replying to the answers, acting on good ideas, and leading by example in holding yourself accountable.

This isn’t going to be easy, but it will work. Remember, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When you presented them the opportunity to speak freely via the anonymous survey, you demonstrated that you care.

Then, you showed them respect again by replying to their answers via the Full-Report. You told them what actions would be taken based on their suggestions and you told them when they should expect results. Then, you followed up to get their suggestions on how well you did with their initial suggestions! Now that is fantastic leadership and your people will certainly know how much you care. They will return the favor!

It’s not easy, but it can be fun and when the passion is reignited, you’ll know it was worth the effort.

I wish you my best in getting unstuck!

This is an excerpt from Jon Denney’s book Unstuck. You can purchase the entire book at for just $14.99!

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