By Brian McKay

Employees can tell you everything about the state of your company and if you are truly a disruptor or have fallen into the corporate trap. Yes, finding out the truth from them can be difficult. Most companies that become complacent will settle for the answers of a crappy employee survey that neither encourages truth or asks the hard questions. If you have never heard that the power rests with he who asks the questions, please go revisit Socratic Method. Ask the right questions and you’ll get the response you want.

Many companies settle for easy questions that are hard to distort. They want to trumpet amazing results to reaffirm egos, not questions that call into doubt how management might really be perceived. Self-reaffirming polling is the indicator of the dying. Disruptors don’t shy from brutal honesty.

The ego doesn’t matter, the purpose of the institution and its disruptive purpose does. Yes, your employees can tell you if you are achieving this or just giving in to your own bullshit.

The foremost indicator of true disruption is in seeing engaged employees with a purpose. They aren’t pretending to have a purpose just to assuage the egos of management and cultivate a career, they have a true purpose.

Plenty of junk employee surveys exist in corporate America. Guess what? We achieved a 4 out of 5 on the questions “Do you have a best friend at work?” and “Do you feel your manager truly cares about you?” So what? Ask “Do you feel that your job creates value in upsetting the general perceived value systems in the existing market?”, or even better “Do you feel that we are disrupting the shit out of things?”, and then get back to me.

How are disruptive employees different? Well for one, they feel a greater sense of purpose in the organization. You will never hear an employee in a truly disruptive organization say that they think a new initiative was rolled out just so someone could justify their pay scale. And if you ever hear an employee compare your firm to a Dilbert cartoon, you are screwed. Just give up at that point.

An employee that is part of a disruptive company is genuinely happy. You can ask hard questions (really hard questions) and receive positive answers. In fact, the disruptive employee wants hard questions as a sign of respect to them. No you don’t tailor your questions to make you feel good, you ask really brutal questions and expect the answers that you don’t expect. If the response is positive, plan on kicking some ass.

Employees with a disruptive purpose are truly valuable. If they feel their company is disruptive, they will also look for innovative and new ways of furthering that disruption. You can’t use the big company suggestion method of providing an online form that goes to someone out in the ether that decides what is valuable or not. If you are a true disruptor, you have embraced bottom up initiatives and give those employees an immediate sounding board that can work its way up if even only marginally vetted. Don’t feel that it is in any way a waste of time, because some truly brilliant ideas will come from it.

Disruptive employees also provide amazing customer service. If they feel they are a part of a company challenging the status quo, customers are approached with a smile and creative solutions. There is no “Let me consult my handbook. Well looks like I just can’t help you”. That is a dying company response.

Some big firms have benefitted from this at times as well. Southwest Airlines used to have excellent service when you called in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. T-Mobile, under John Legere, seems to have the disruptive corporate bug right now. Most times when I call T-Mobile, the service is very good and the employees have indicated that they feel a genuine sense of purpose. It is the main reason I switched providers.

Constantly communicate that goal of disruption to your employees. Ditch the things that might separate you from them. Expensive suits and Rolexes aren’t worn by disruptors and are verboten. If your tie cost more than the average employee makes in a day, you are not a disruptor. You are a dinosaur. It is the goal of the disruptive company to keep the feeling alive no matter how big they might become.

It is never enough to have a disruptive vision at the top, it has to permeate all of the way through the company. Constantly reinforce the message and your employees will carry it to fruition.

zenrupt some business.

Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption and has his MBA from Boise State University. When executives wear $4,000 suits to employee town halls, he tunes out and dreams of an egg white whiskey sour. As a lifelong disruptor, he is always ready to rock the Costco shirt and act, not talk. We feel he might rather die than ever submit.




Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license