Speak Less. Listen More.
How often do you hear great examples of companies and their leadership team regularly taking the time to listen, learn and take action on behalf of their employees? Can’t think of any? Not to worry because even though companies acknowledge that listening is a crucial skill, many haven’t mastered the art form themselves.
Let’s face it, the reality is leaders often fall short in taking action on employee feedback with meaningful communications that lead to measurable change. Yet, leaders often expect employees to jump on the company bandwagon to meet the stated goals and objectives without taking into consideration the important and individual role each employee plays in collectively achieving success. Want to know why your employees may not be as motivated or productive? Actively listen to find out.
Every employee, at any level of an organization, wants to feel heard, valued and supported. Words followed by actions begin to sow the seeds of a culture of trust where employees will be more willing to express a viewpoint or provide honest feedback because their voice matters.
Simple gestures of active listening go a long way in creating a culture where employees feel recognized. Take for example a spontaneous floor walk. All too often, we hear stories of leaders visiting offices and disappearing behind closed doors or running off to a client meeting. The impression that behavior leaves with employees is that the “little guy” isn’t as important to the larger organization. It takes no time at all to make a lasting impression on an employee. A five-minute conversation at an employee’s workspace is enough time to help create an internal culture leader or an external brand ambassador and that’s a whole lot more valuable to long-term company success.
How Do You Actively Listen?
When thinking about an action plan for active listening, recognize that one size does not fit all and what may work for one organization may not be right or appropriate for another. Provide several listening channels customized to the various ways employees like to interact within your company. Whether it is scheduled or spontaneous one-on-ones, group discussions or anonymous surveys, more channels provide more opportunities for receiving feedback. Whatever the setting, make sure it’s a safe environment that encourages good listening without judgments or the fear of repercussions. Blog headline aside, active listening also requires participation. Seek out opinions and ideas by asking questions and show you’re listening by being present without distractions. Finally, as more than 50% of communication is body language, observe nonverbal cues for unspoken truths.
Listen for ALL the stuff, good and bad!
Don’t be afraid of negative feedback. Leaders who encourage honest feedback are more effective than ones who don’t as that open dialogue helps to boost employee engagement and provides a real-time gauge on culture. With regular (yes that means more than once a year) ways to capture feedback, leaders can show employees they are listening, constantly leading and adapting to change. How? By acknowledging feedback and following up to address the concerns of employees. Leaders should communicate frequently, clearly and candidly their thoughts on employee expectations, what the company has achieved, what it hasn’t and why.
Keep it honest by keeping score
Measure progress with a scorecard. In a snapshot, leaders can provide a timeline of collective accomplishments, challenges and new targets to achieve. A scorecard by its very nature can evolve and ensure leaders remain accountable and transparent and employees understand their role in achieving a company’s goals and objectives.
While leaders can lead with memorable stories it is only rhetoric without meaningful actions. By leading with active listening, employees will be inspired to follow and a culture of trust will naturally evolve where every voice matters.
Stayed tuned for our last culture post, which will focus on fostering an environment where employee ambassadors can thrive. Happy Holidays!