If everyone in your business is always in agreement with you and no one challenges your decisions or ideas then you are running an “echo chamber” organization (this is also commonly referred to as a “Yes-Man” organization). This type of organization is called an echo chamber because everything the leader says, the organization echoes back to them. There are no original thoughts, dissenting ideas or challenging statements.
This is a very dangerous environment to operate in as a leader. If no one is there to challenge your ideas and direction, you will eventually lead your organization into one of your blind spots (news flash: each of us has blind spots) and over a cliff. You won’t have anyone to warn you until it is too late!
Back when I was in junior high school I had an English/Social teacher who could not handle any dissenting views (which is very ironic as these are the two subjects where there are few precise answers and many interpretations). It was her way of thinking or she made you leave and spend the rest of the class in the detention room!
Because of this teaching style three things happened;
- I became very well acquainted with the detention room!
- Her effectiveness as a teacher was greatly diminished as the class learned to only echo what the teacher stated (her leadership influence was marginalized)
- The class’ capability to learn and understand how to interpret literature and political events was suppressed (the students’ potential was limited)
Fortunately for me, I had great teachers in high school that took the total opposite approach. They encouraged dissenting views and loved to debate ideas, literature and politics. They would offer guidance and their impact on me was much more positive than hers.
What can you do to change your culture if you realize that your organization is an echo chamber?
Start by taking these five steps
- Cultivate a culture of diverse thinking and opinions by encouraging opposing thoughts. Welcome debates on issues and treat debaters respectfully.
- Reward those who respectfully push back . Rewarding the desired behavior will let the organization know that this behavior is valued.
- Embrace risk. When you are willing to risk criticism, you are opening the doors to communication and eliminating the echo chamber culture.
- Pick three ways to solve issues your business is facing and have your leadership team debate the merits of each . . . And have them select the best fit solution.
- Delegate, delegate, delegate. If you are not in the decision process, there cannot be an echo chamber.
Spend some time this week and observe your staff when you set a direction or express an idea. Do they give you feedback or just agree and echo your words? Where do you need to make changes and what actions from the list above can you implement to drive the echo chamber out of your business?
Leave a comment below on your experiences with an “echo chamber” organization.
“Self confident, secure leaders love to give feedback because they know that growing people is their responsibility. By true feedback, I mean saying what they really think.” Ram Charan
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