I liked the points that Dave B made a few days ago in his post “How to Be a Good Troublemaker” It reminded me as a manager I often asked for anonymous feedback from those that report to me. Without that feedback I would have not known about a few blind spots. I have seen many a manager that know 100% they have it all figured out on their own. Their confidence in themselves does help them move forward for a while, but often I have seen that eventually they are tripped up by something. They are not able to understand where they have a weakness. Sometimes they just don’t have all the data and don’t bother asking others to validate their assumptions. You certainly can go wrong in life trying to primarily please others, but you can miss out on a significant amount of growth from feedback.
Dave B commented in his blogpost:
The bottom line for LDS group decisionmaking is: (1) Dissent and sharing of opposing opinions improves group decisionmaking; (2) dissent and opposing opinions are strongly disfavored in most LDS group scenarios, whether local or general; so (3) LDS group decisionmaking could be improved by tolerating more discussion of opposing views.
With this strong cultural pressure against dissent, I feel this is blocking some much needed feedback within the church.
We can see that even the top leaders are getting some “pre-digested” information from the videos released by MormonLeaks. Some of the information is good, and some maybe not as blunt as it needs to be.
I have heard of some limited sampling of members from church headquarters, but it seems to extremely limited. I have heard there was one a few decades ago that led to changes in the temple ceremonies and a few lately on garments.
I have no illusions that being one of the top leaders of the LDS church is very hard. Their schedule alone is something most people would rather not do even when they are young. But traveling around is not the core of leading. Setting the direction of major courses of action within the church can have ramifications for decades is the important leading. I am sure they debate actions substantially before acting (at least when they feel they have the time to delay).
In one of my MBA classes I recall the professor mentioning a study that indicated the maximum average useful life of a CEO was about a decade. The CEO’s effectiveness fell either because they were still focused on the problem that brought them into the position and that is no longer the main issue (and lack of good feedback can perpetuate this), or they often just got bored. At least for the first issue the recommendation was to get avoid only getting information digested by multiple levels of management (yes – there is an intentional pun in there if you think about it). Honest feedback from lower level employees can be a valuable bit of information.
It really wonder if the top leaders really are even able to get this really good type of unfiltered information. Take one example of a very small survey done by David Oslter called “Do leaders understand members who are in a faith crisis?” Sure statisticians can knock it down due to it being a small self-selecting survey. But I suspect it may not be all that off from what a more rigorous survey might find if you are looking at it from a high level.
I will focus on 2 of the graphs from this survey. They show the answers to the survey questions broken down by leader’s responses vs Faith Crisis Member’s responses.
If the top leaders are asking their “direct reports” to poll those below them for information on down the line, this informal survey paints an interesting picture of the feedback they would probably be getting. If for instance there is a formal or even informal request for some feedback on reasons for faith crisis, the leaders are going to be giving a VERY different result to that request for information than those that have gone through a faith crisis.
And I think it is almost not worth mentioning that General Authorities are not normally going to get unpleasant feedback. The first reason Dave B lays out fairly well in that it is very counter to the Mormon culture. I would also add that most leaders that are talking with General Authorities are often trying to portray their best image to the “higher ups”. Anybody in most any organization that is moved up the chain will be socially adept enough to know, even if subconsciously, not to be the bearer of bad news. On top of that general members tend to “worshipy” of General Authorities.
What I have read of those that study millennials is that millennials value other’s opinions more than authority figures when compared with older generations. I think we are already starting to see this cause a rift in the church with the younger members more accepting of LGBTQ+ and less respectful towards those that are not so accepting.
Are there indications that top church leaders do have a clear picture of issues where the rubber meets the road that I am missing?