The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 adults taken between August 27-31, 2011 found that generally speaking 44% of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing. 51% disapprove. The other 5% aren’t sure. The President’s poll numbers improve when respondents were asked about issues—his handling of foreign policy (50% approval) or Libya (46% approval).
What is absolutely certain is that generally 82% of these polled Americans disapprove of the job the United States Congress is doing. Men and women alike. Surely as the leaves changing color in fall, we can expect a new cycle of polling numbers in the months ahead as the Presidential election cycle heats up. Some of those numbers may give us pause. Some will reflect our own feelings. Our perception after all is our reality.
What is more interesting in general is that many disdain polls in governing. There is a notion that somehow, great leaders and their visions rise above the lowly poll. Being your own person, setting your own course or hearing the beat of your own drummer is celebrated in American leadership. Yet too many organizations are led by the tone-deaf leader—a person unable or unwilling to listen to those around them, hear the voice of the customer—or reflect on the data streaming their way to take meaningful actions in response.
How many times have you spoken directly with a customer in the past week? Not the ones who have called you, but ones that you have personally dialed up for a conversation? What are they telling you about your organization? About your team? What perceptions are your customers/clients/members sharing with you? Even the President holds “town hall” sessions to gather ideas and insights.
So what questions are you asking to better understand where your organizations stands? For example, asking someone, “Based on your experience, what could we do to improve our [product/service/quality] here?” may reveal some clear action steps. Or try asking, “If you were in my shoes, how would you respond to this situation?” Sometimes the simple act of asking someone to “tell you more” about a given situation or issue will yield significant value.
These personal conversations go far beyond what you might discern from a member research project, an educational event evaluation or a client satisfaction survey. As a leader, your personal outreach and your willingness to listen—and to act—are paramount to understanding and bettering your own leadership “poll numbers”. Time to get busy.