“The Emperor’s New Clothes”


I was reminded of this story when I was speaking with a friend about her organization’s culture. It is a story that is similar to many organizations. The top brass thought everything was fine and told everyone that they “just needed to work harder”. “What is it with this new generation?” they would ask themselves. Employees felt the top brass was out of touch. New ideas were dismissed. New employees were told not to disagree. While the company continued to have “a great year,” what they didn’t see was that morale was at an all-time low, turnover was getting higher and their attraction for new talent was waning.

Are we really great? How do we know? Or are we just wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes?

The fact is, if we’re not asking questions of our organizations and their cultures or if we fail to strive to adapt, then we risk the danger of stagnating… and at worse, extinction. This plays out in high turnover, low morale and mediocre attraction of new talent.

The methods that got us to where we are today are unlikely to be same ones that will get us to where we want to be in 5 or 10 years.

This is because we do not live in a vacuum. We are in a long-term relationship with the world outside of us. The best and most sustainable companies over time are adaptable. They look for new innovative ways of being – and consistently look to their culture to remain sustainable.

How to find out exactly what our companies are “wearing”? It starts by a willingness to notice we’re not wearing any clothes. Have real conversations that get to our nakedness, if you will, with tough questions, like: 1. What is at stake? 2. What’s the most important thing to focus on right now? 3. Where are we going? 4. What are we pretending not to see? 5. What or who are we avoiding? 6. What’s not being said? 7. What’s the outcome we want? 8. What will we commit to, to get it?

Without real conversations, everyone can see right through us.


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