Organisations are basically very complex gatherings of humans in different stages of their life, harbouring a range of emotions, underlying values, perceived needs and preferred communication styles, to name a few.
When put in one large pot misunderstandings, secretly hurt feelings, raised eyebrows and gossip inevitably happen, mostly because we are all grown-up-looking kids in suits who can’t help but assume that our way of being makes most sense and can therefore easily be easily interacted with. We are all effectively blind to alternative ways of living and working.
The larger the organisation, the more complex it gets and guess who this really sucks for?
The gal/guy on top, the CEO, founder or head honcho who, no matter how hands-on, caring and cool, usually has a really hard time taking the pulse of what’s actually going on behind the professional workings of the business machine.
Why would the leader person want to regularly take the pulse of everything human and intangible in the organisation?
The obvious reason is to build good relationships, foster trust and be a like-able human being who shows appreciation and care.
But what most people forget about in the orchestration of human workings is the importance of having a direct and immediate feedback loop, minus any brown-nosing politics. And I’m not talking about strategic feedback - the “hey, can you give me feedback about this official thing” kind of feedback. I’m talking about the everyday reactions and inner movings and shakings that happen within an organisation.
So you delicately criticised a business move during a meeting. So you made a funny announcement on the intranet. So you almost forgot your marketing manager’s sabbatical but then remembered just in time.
Everyday business things that happen, right?
Well it turns out you may have hurt someone’s feelings, gotten your facts wrong, hit the wrong tone or given someone the impression that their contribution doesn’t matter. And by not being aware, you may just be making matters worse.
By not having that feedback loop you are losing a myriad of valuable little opportunities to strengthen your brand, support your culture, walk your talk.
The problem is that the higher up you are in the organisation, the more unlikely it is someone will grab you by the collar and say “Whoopsie daisy - wasn’t THAT a blunder! Your communication sucked in that meaning. I’d go check in with Harry and say sorry!”
We all need someone to give us a “whoopsie daisy” from time to time which is why I’d like to globally reinstate the role of the court jester for all organisations with more than 20 employees.
The jester was the person close to the queen, who could play wild cards and comically say things as they were without royalty losing face and, conveniently, without them losing their head. The jester was often a trusted advisor and used to gauge the emotional response present at court and the kingdom at large.
So how can the role of the jester be lived in organisations today?
Can this role be assigned to someone explicitly? Can it be a hat people are invited to wear? Perhaps a rotating jester principle?
Perhaps there is already a jester in your business who only needs permission (and adequate boundaries) to be of service?
You’ll get a look in the mirror when you need it (and also when you don’t want it) and the repercussions of your (non) actions and words will be all the clearer to you.
To fools and truths and giggles!