3(ish) Minute Moment: What Does "Neutral" Really Mean? | Propel Change
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3(ish) Minute Moment: What Does “Neutral” Really Mean?

3(ish) Minute Moment: What Does “Neutral” Really Mean?

Have you defined what good looks like, with your leadership?

Do you know how you’re measuring it?

Do they know how you’re measuring it?

Today’s 3(ish) minute video is about “What does neutral really mean?”


So, John is the CEO of a growing healthcare company, and he called me in because he said: “Hey, look, we need some communication training, and I need to know how much it’s gonna cost.”

Well, my first question was “John, why do you think you need communication training?”

And the whole issue that he had was “I think my employee engagement’s really down, we did a survey, we got a lot of turnover, so we gotta get that better.”

So, I asked him if I could see the results of the survey. I went through 50 or 60 pages of documentation, and I kept seeing the same things over and over and over. Where they thought they were having a communication issue, it was actually three completely different issues.

One was we have an issue with processes, our processes aren’t standardized, and it showed up whenever somebody would say “Hey, how am I supposed to do this?” I’d ask five people, and I’d get five different answers.

Another one was, they had issues with leadership. When leaders were not playing well in the sandbox together, everybody knew about it, and actually, it flowed right down into the organization.

And the third issue was communications; they had silos in departments, they had people not really playing nicely together.

So, as a result, we started looking at percentages, on their five-point scale, am I very satisfied, am I very dissatisfied. And neutral was right smack dab in the middle.

What we learned was, 65 percent of the people were unhappy with really emotional issues, like their pay, like their vacation time, like “Hey, can I go to my supervisor with anything?” No, I don’t think I can.

In fact, John didn’t really recognize that until I pointed out a couple of things.

He said “Well, no, I think we’re more at like 30 percent,” because he was looking at 30 percent are showing up as dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied. And I pointed out to him, 35 percent are neutral.

Now, people typically aren’t neutral on emotional issues like their pay, their vacation and whether they can talk to their supervisor. So, to me, I have a 65 percent unhappy employee rate, which meant that’s why you’ve got turnover going on.

So, here’s the deal. When we started talking about it, John said, “Well, I just, I can’t believe that all these people would be dissatisfied.”

I said, “John, people do not say that they’re neutral unless they are fearful of any repercussions, or they have a situation where they just got here, ‘I really don’t know, I think my pay is fine until I know otherwise.'”

So, as a result, it opened his eyes hugely, in what does unhappy really mean, because 35% neutral does not mean they just don’t have a thought.

So, while he wanted training for his employees, for communication, what he really desperately needed was training for the leaders.

Training so that people understood here’s how I’m supposed to act, and bad behavior looks like this, good behavior looks like that.

So, if any of this sounds familiar, ask yourself do we do this right now?

And some things that you can look at is:

Have you defined what good looks like, with your leadership?
Do you know how you’re measuring it?
Do they know how you’re measuring it?
If you know what good looks like, and you’re measuring it, do you have any behavior gaps?

Because if you have behavior gaps, that’s what you need training on, not generic “How do I communicate with somebody?”

The third thing that you should look at in terms of what does good look like and do we have behavior gaps, is, what are you reinforcing?

If you’re reinforcing good behavior, that’s great. If you’re becoming a mute for bad behavior, what that means is you’re reinforcing it because you’re tolerating it.

Why are you tolerating it? Do you like your turnover numbers? Do you like a bad culture? Your culture does not happen with your employees. The leadership defines your culture.

Don’t arbitrarily provide communication training, or process training, or any kind of training. Look and see, what am I trying to fix?

Work with your leadership first, to make absolutely sure your leadership is bought in and they know what they’re supposed to do, when and why and what good looks like.

When you have good leaders, you’ll have a great culture.