Get your information from the source

Morgan O’Brien, president and CEO of Peoples Natural Gas Co. LLC, this month’s cover story, tells his employees that executives don’t make bad decisions because they’re not smart. They make bad decisions because they don’t have good information or they’re not close enough to the issue.

That sounds simple enough to change. Executives need to gather better information and/or learn more about the issue. But how?

O’Brien likes to get information directly from the lower level employees who are dealing with customers. He makes an effort to do this by trying to visit all of Peoples’ locations twice a year.

It takes time, certainly, but as he reminded me during our interview, when you believe in something, you will make it a priority. If executives believe they need to listen and learn from their employees, they’ll spend time on that in both good times and bad. They’ll consistently focus on it.

Sometimes consistency is undervalued. When your employees know what to expect from you and from the organization, and managers know what to expect from the employees, stress and anxiety decreases.

I recently spoke to my great aunt, who is more than 90 years old, at a family reunion. When I reminded her what I did for a living, she told me she doesn’t understand why people in business today are so stressed out and anxious. I didn’t have a good answer for her at the time, but not enough consistent listening is certainly part of the problem.

One organization that has spent the past several years listening is The Women and Girls Foundation. I hadn’t previously heard about its Femisphere project, which is onto its second phase. It’s an interesting concept you can read about in the feature story.

Finally, The Frick Pittsburgh, the Uniquely Pittsburgh feature, has another exciting special exhibit opening this month. I missed the last one, so I plan to get to this one. The Frick is doing lots of great things to improve its visitor experience. I’d guess a few of those ideas came from some consistent listening on their part, too.