What I Didn’t Expect From Jury Duty

Yes, I got that fateful summons in the mail — called in for Jury Duty! (dum-dum-dum….scary organ sound-effect) ARGH! I’m too busy for this! Don’t they know I have important work to do for important clients? I carefully read the descriptions of all the situations that allow you to defer or request an exemption, but I couldn’t honestly pursue those options. Besides, I could get called at another time that was even more inconvenient so I might as well suck it up and fulfill by civic duty.

I must say I didn’t really go into the event highly motivated with a happy heart, but I found the experience pleasantly surprising and observed the great change management & communication techniques that were use to effectively manage this group of 500 potential jurors — all with similar attitudes as mine, by the way. The day offered good reminders about how to manage a group of unwilling participants — or in the case of some of our clients, unhappy or anxious employees. It confirmed some best practices used in managing change within client organizations. Here’s what those running the jury selection process did so well:

  • Set the stage. Take time to step back and offer some introduction and background to establish a common understanding of the situation. In the Jury Assembly Room, we started the morning with a video that introduced us to the process and offered a bit of a history lesson about the role jurors play in our judicial system.
  • Use leaders to show support and sponsorship. Hearing from leaders who demonstrate support for the event or change adds credibility for the effort and helps get people on board…”if it’s important to that person, then it should probably be important to me.” In my jury duty experience, after we saw the intro video, one of the judges joined us in the assembly room and offered a motivational/inspirational speech on the value and importance jurors have in the process, beat the patriotic drum and helped the group shift to a “do it for the greater good” mentality.
  • Acknowledge how the group may be feeling. Show some empathy & compassion for what those impacted may be experiencing. That sense of, “hey, they get it!” will emerge and it sets an environment where the group is more willing to listen and be less defensive or argumentative. Those managing the jury selection process did a really nice job of this with remarks about understanding that almost no one wanted to be in the room and that the jury duty service can be a big disruption in people’s lives. They interspersed humor along the way too, which lightened the mood, got people laughing a bit and engaging with one another.  It was weird, there was a strange sense of camaraderie in the room.
  • Communicate early and often. Even if there is no new news. I would give them an A+ in the manner and frequency in which they kept the group informed about what was happening, what was about to happen, specific directions about what to do and clearly setting expectations. When people are informed, they don’t create their own version about what is going on or make assumptions about what is happening behind that curtain. Anxiety over the unknown is lessened and a sense of trust is established. “There are telling me everything they know. I trust that they will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it.” This is where I’ve seen organizations run off the rails and ruin the change effort.  Communicate, communicate, communicate! Am I making myself clear here?
  • Treat people with respect. When you sit in a room with randomly selected members of the county, you expect that there will be a good deal of diversity among the participants. Hopefully, in most organizations, there is some good diversity as well. One over-arching theme in how everyone was treated was RESPECT. It was genuine and came across in how they communicated, the environment, (vending machines, clean, convenient restrooms, comfortable room  temperature and comfy chairs!), as well has the non-verbals in eye-contact, smiling and posture. It really set the tone for the day and sets the tone in organizations as well. Mutual respect is the essential ingredient. When people feel respected, they tend to behave in a respectful manner — goodness all the way around!

Overall, my day serving jury duty exceeded by expectations. Not only did I get a first-hand reminder about how good change & communication management can positively affect those involved, I was not selected to serve on a jury for the criminal trial, which could last 3+ weeks!

How would a jury of your employees react to the change & communication efforts happening in your organization?  Would you be found guilty of not following these five principles?

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @MDuesterhoft or connect by email at mduesterhoft@www.people-results.com.