About twenty years ago, in a city far from where my agency is located, I learned a valuable life lesson.
Gathered with me in an old room with dated furniture on a cloudy fall day were 12 people who I’d never met prior to that week. A few days before, we went through a tryout of sorts, and that was also a strange experience. I always wanted to be picked, so I put my best foot forward, answered their questions, and before I knew it, I’d been selected for a trial. That was bittersweet.
I’d been selected, but now I was on a jury. And it wasn’t any old jury. We were seated in a manslaughter trial that involved some local gangs and a lot of bad things. The trial went over three days, and we were given our instructions and sent to this room to meet, discuss what we saw, and deliver a verdict.
One of the first things the judge had told us was that we were not allowed to take notes – he didn’t want people swayed by others who had written things down – or so he said. We were also instructed to stay away from the media and any news coverage through the course of the trial. As far as I know, no one else had been on a jury for a manslaughter trial.
At this point, you’d probably like to hear about the case, or maybe the verdict.
What I want to share was my shock that each person in that chilly, gray room saw something different and had a unique perspective. After a few days of testimony, rhetoric, and pictures, I remembered thinking everyone else saw what I saw and, in turn, would have the same opinion of what happened.
Instead, I pretty quickly realized that all 13 of us saw and experienced different things and had our own thoughts and opinions. To solve the mystery, it ended up as a hung jury, and I believe the whole thing started again. The reason I bring this experience up now all these years later is to encourage business leaders to check-in, ask, find out how your fellow leaders, employees, clients, and even prospects are doing. You may think things are going great, but those in our care often have a different opinion or a different outlook.
The only way to get to the bottom of where people are is to ask. Then listen. You may not like what you hear, but at least you’ll know. Different people see the same things differently.