You’ve got a full plate – I won’t try to argue with you on that. But being busy implementing new ideas and meeting your boss’s expectations is no excuse to ignore the people-managing portion of your job.
Your employees are always trying to tell you something whether you want to hear it or not. So how do you know if you’re the kind of boss they feel comfortable bringing honest feedback to, or if you’re the kind of boss they won’t waste their time on?
- Pardon the Interruption
Are you interrupting? Assuming? Judging? Distracted?
These are not four qualities of a good listener but they might be qualities of an overworked boss. The key to listening is being quiet; that includes you, your inner monologue and the external distractions. Put the phone away, stop checking your email, just offer your full attention to the matter at hand. Listen with both ears.
- Can You Elaborate?
Are you asking more questions and engaging?
Never assume you have information you don’t. If you’re engaged with a concerned employee, ask as many questions as you can until you fully understand the situation. Listen with new ears and you’ll be surprised not just by what new things you learn but by how appreciated your employee will feel.
- One More Thing
Are you following up?
Just because the conversation is over, doesn’t mean your involvement is. Failing to remember the discussion can jeopardize your trustworthiness and forgetting to follow up can do even more damage. If the chat concluded with an action item you were supposed to move on, be sure you do it. You’ll hear from your employees less and less if they feel ignored.
- If You’re Happy and You Know it
Do you know what your employees want and need to keep them engaged and happy?
Are you familiar with the people on your team enough to know what matters most to them? Perhaps you think a great work incentive is to offer midday snacks to break the 2pm slump but what if Joanie, a tired mother of 3, is on a diet? Perhaps a better treat would be to let your employees off work 15 minutes early. Then Joanie can grab a healthy snack and spend some extra time with the kids before bedtime. An incentive idea might sound great to you but as with most things in life, know your audience. And don’t be surprised if the snack cart doesn’t motivate the way you expected.
- Listen with your Eyes
Sometimes your employees will feel too scared or uncomfortable to bring something to your attention directly. Don’t blame them for it. Instead, open your eyes and see if you notice anything about morale, productivity or office politics that might need addressing. Surely you’ve had experiences in the past where you wanted to share something with your boss but didn’t feel comfortable doing so. Did you show any distress signs? Your team is likely going to draw on the same ones when things go wrong.
People want to matter; they want to be heard. One of the most frustrating experiences you could provide an employee is to ignore, patronize or judge their concerns.
Your employees are the expert of their jobs. They’re on the frontlines doing the hands on work. So be sure you’re listening to what they’re trying to communicate to you. It’s imperative that you believe it and it’s imperative that you help them believe it.
Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.