As a business leader, it’s essential to regularly check the health of your organization in order to be aware of potential improvement opportunities, stop bad situations before they get worse, and keep employees from feeling disengaged and neglected. With all the expectations on a leader’s time, here are some straightforward, sometimes overlooked ways to take that all-important pulse:

  • Get out in the trenches. Leaders easily can get buried in meetings, phone calls and outside events. It’s important to set aside time to walk your own turf. Visit the different corners of your enterprise. Make it a habit to see and to be seen
  • Have brief, unstructured conversations. One trap of management life is constantly driving towards resolving immediate questions and issues. To get out of the trap, make your employee chats open-ended. Ask what they’re up to, what’s on their minds, and what grit may be getting into the organizational gears. Then really listen to their answers.
  • Listen to every message. Because there’s so much for leaders to do, it’s tempting to brush off employee complaints and frustrations as a needless burden in an already full day. Even if something you hear seems like grousing, think carefully about whether the message contains a grain of truth, and act accordingly.
  • Use your senses. We’re physically equipped to scan our world for danger signs. Pay attention to what you see, and touch, as well as to your feelings. What do they tell you? Is everything great? Only okay? Possibly headed off the rails? Check out any inklings you might have that things aren’t right.
  • Cultivate an “intelligence network.” Identify those people who will “call things as they see them.” Make it a point to occasionally get together with them. Ask about things in their part of the organization. Piece together a picture of the full situation from those conversations.
  • Use leading indicators. Some of the organizational information that you routinely gather can be invaluable for teasing out opportunities and problems. Have complaints about one of your services dropped dramatically? Why? What have your people learned to do?  Are absence rates up? What is driving that? What are the reasons behind an unused budget?  Pay attention to any signs that seem unusual.
  • Make it formal, too. Town halls, employee meetings, focus groups, or even standardized surveys open up communication channels. Decide if you want to start a regular employee outreach effort, and make it happen. Remember to thank people for what you learn, and take action so they know you heard them.

Organizational health checking isn’t hard, but it easily can go onto the leadership back burner. Be sure you periodically examine your enterprise’s vital signs.  Doing so will help you surface important ideas, understand possible emerging issues and truly stay connected with the people who help your organization succeed.