The shadow!

I’m a huge fan of learning from ‘people’ and more importantly ‘listening’.  I’ve always felt that you can understand a situation or a person much better if you listen and listen well – some of the best CEOs that I’ve met are those who don’t speak first – they typically let those in the room speak and debate and once the discussion is drawing to a close will offer their view, opinion or take on a situation, having genuinely listened to multiple views and thoughts first.

By learning to listen well, you can really begin to learn and for me this is wonderfully illustrated through the shadow.  We’ve been working with a client recently on intervention work following their recent employee engagement survey – feedback from the survey, and notably from the free text comments, highlighted that there were barriers to cross team/ project working within the organisation (a bit of a silo and fiefdom mentality) and issues around people understanding what they need to do to progress within the organisation.

Employee engagement intervention

The intervention work we are helping the client with centres around ‘shadowing’ and it’s a two-fold approach.  Over a six-month period there will be a mix of employees shadowing senior managers and also employees shadowing peers but in different parts of the business.  In short, the shadow listens and learns about the role undertaken by senior managers or by their peers in the other parts of the business.  After each day, there is an informal debrief between the two people and the shadow’s experiences and thoughts are written up and then communicated, widely, throughout the business.  In this instance there is a dedicated section on the Intranet that has been put together specifically for this exercise and supported by an internal newsletter and CEO email that contains the write-ups as well.

The benefit of this is two-fold; firstly it helps to involve people, it’s an engaging approach that informs and educates – the shadow learns how different people and parts of the business work – they can begin to see how senior people operate and highlights what they may need to accomplish to progress within the business.  Moreover, for this client, it breaks down barriers and creates advocates – by listening and learning what other people do in different parts of the business and also how senior management operate and what they do/ need to do, that siloed mentality begins to disappear and there is a far greater appreciation and understanding of what others do.

If siloed working and/ or a lack of understanding of what others do and why is an issue within your organisation, why not give me a call and I’ll happily chat through how we might do something similar to the above to improve engagement in your business – you can reach me on +44 (0) 1255 870735 or ping me an email at