Construction Leadership Insights

What To Do With The Jeremiahs In Your Organization

In this post, I’m going to talk about how important the role of Jeremiah is in every organization.

Who is Jeremiah? Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet. His job was to go to the leaders of the nation of Israel and tell them the truth about them and the state of the nation.

Every Company Leader Needs a Jeremiah

The problem was they didn’t really like Jeremiah coming and telling them the truth. As a result, they imprisoned him. When he would send them scrolls with the message of God, they would burn the scrolls and try to kill him.

That’s the problem many leaders have. They don’t receive the message of the Jeremiahs in their organization—the people who are willing to tell them the truth. They don’t have anyone internally or externally who is able to communicate to them the truth. When that does happen they don’t always receive it.

Now you may say, “Hey, I’m not going to be burning any books. I’m not going to be sending anyone to prison and I’m not going to be killing anyone for sure.”

But you know what you do? You delete emails. You reassign people to positions where they can’t bug you. And you fire people. And the problem with that is once you remove the Jeremiahs from your organization who are willing to tell you the truth, the truth doesn’t go away. The truth about your company still exists. There just isn’t anyone left to tell you that truth. And as a result bad things happen in organizations.

Every company needs a Jeremiah. Who’s your Jeremiah and how have you set up your company so they can come and tell you the truth as often as possible?

Because no matter what happens, the truth always exists. So make sure you have a Jeremiah who can speak to you clearly about what’s really going on in your organization.

Who Are The Jeremiahs In Your Organization?

Every leader needs a Jeremiah in their organization to tell them the truth.

Who are the Jeremiahs? Jeremiah was a prophet and the idea of a prophet in the Old Testament was a seer—someone who had vision into the truth.

Think about the people in your organization who see things clearly. I work with a lot of construction companies. Perhaps you have an old school foreman in your organization and you know that if you pick up the phone and talk to him he will tell you exactly what’s going on on a job site. He will tell you if your PM is clueless. He will tell you if your customer is trying to hose you. He has that vision and that clear perspective.

The problem with these seers many times in history, and perhaps in your company, is they are often contrarians. They are often saying, “No, this is not working. We need to fix this.”

As a result of that, they can be kind of a burr in your saddle. You must be willing for that contrarian perspective to help you see the truth.

The last thing about these types of Jeremiahs is often, they are oddly-packaged. If you look in the Old Testament, many of the profits were badly-dressed. They weren’t exactly hip, sort of “cool” leaders, so to speak. They were badly-packaged.

And because the outward appearance is often not what you want, it’s hard to hear the message.

But you have to understand this: you should be looking for those Jeremiahs in your organizations. Those people who see clearly, who are willing to bring you contrarian messages that may make you uncomfortable. And regardless of how they are packaged, you should be willing to listen to them.

Make sure you have Jeremiahs in your organization who are willing to tell you the truth and you are listening to them on a regular basis.

The Message Of The Jeremiahs

Many times, the prophets in Israel came with messages of warning. They were saying this, “Hey. You guys are going this way. If you keep going this way, things are going to go badly. You’re going to receive consequences as a result of the choices you’re making.”

The Jeremiahs in your company will come to you with warnings about three things:

  1.   People warnings
  2.   Process warnings
  3.   Product or service warnings.

What you need to be able to do is hear those messages because they’ll come to you with both numbers and conversations. They’ll have heard conversations or they’ll have specific numbers to tell you where your problems exist. Your decision is what you’re going to do about that.

The very best Jeremiahs don’t just come to you and say, hey, there’s a problem, there’s a problem, there’s a problem. They will come with solutions as well.

In other words, they will say this: “Hey, we’re going this way. If we keep going this way, it’s going to go badly. But if we go this way, things can turn around.”

That’s the kind of Jeremiah you should look for in your organization—people who aren’t just willing to tell you the truth about people, product and process issues, but can also give you clear solutions about what you can do about those problems.

Look for the Jeremiahs in your organization who can tell you the truth and help maximize your leadership effectiveness.

Why Are Jeremiahs Important?

The reason why Jeremiahs are important is because we often fall short of our best intentions. We don’t do what we need to do in order to have a successful company.

Not only that, it’s also very easy for us to ignore our problems, to deceive ourselves about our problems and blame other people for our problems.

You need someone who’s willing to come to you, look you right in the eye and say, “Hey, listen. As a leader in your organization, you need to take complete responsibility for the issues that are going on in your company.”

Often, that’s really what you want. You just want someone who’s willing to come up and tell you the truth. You know the truth. But you need to hear it from someone outside of your own head. And that really helps you to move forward.

Make sure to remember, when those Jeremiahs come and they tell you the truth, don’t delete their emails; don’t reassign them just to get them out of your hair. And whatever you do, don’t fire the Jeremiahs, no matter what other people are saying.

Make sure you keep sharing their message because they’re very very important to the success of your organization.

How Do You Handle the Jeremiahs?

So the question is, how do you, as a leader, handle the Jeremiahs?

The first thing you want to do about the Jeremiahs is protect them. Remember, in the time of Jeremiah back in the nation of Israel–when he was talking the truth to the leaders there–people wanted to kill him. They wanted to imprison him. They wanted to ignore his message.

If you have a Jeremiah in your company, you probably have other people in your company who would like to get rid of them because people just don’t like to hear the truth most of the time. So the first thing you need to do is protect them. Take care of them.

The second thing you need to do is listen to them. Set aside time to hear from your Jeremiahs. Get their feedback on how things are going with your people, your processes and your product or your service.

Once you’ve heard that information, the best thing to do is respond. Think and evaluate what they are saying. If there’s truth in there, make sure you are making progress on what they’re telling you. The information they’re giving you is typically extremely valuable to your organization and will really help you in your leadership and in the profitability of the company.

So make sure to respond to those Jeremiahs by protecting them, giving them space to speak to you clearly and responding to what they have to say in the most appropriate way possible.

This is Eric Anderton. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on What To Do With The Jeremiahs In Your Organization.

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