This may be true in the weather, but also in leadership. Organizational leaders who refuse to proactively listen to their team members, risk becoming blind sighted by the storm. Employee disengagement, turnover, customer complaints, and even greater consequences face the manager for whom workplace communication is just a one-way street. On the other hand, according to a recent study by Salesforce, employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
One of our senior living customers told us a story of how it took going to the team in the trenches to solve the mystery of their extremely high water bill. Turned out there was an issue with the hot water on one end of the nursing home of which the management was unaware. The nursing assistants would start at that end of the building by turning the water on and leaving it while giving showers to the residents on the other side of the wing and working their way back. Once management ASKED and discovered the problem, they were able to fix the hot water and save hundreds on their bill.
Here are 3 ways you can proactively listen to your team
- Stop, Start, Continue – Gather your team members in groups and put an issue on the table. Perhaps you want to improve customer service, do a better job of welcoming new team members or save on the water bill. Whatever it is, arm your team with index cards, explain the issue and ask them, “What should we STOP doing? What should we START doing? and What should we CONTINUE doing?
- Confidential Hotline – Provide a number that team members can use at any time to share their thoughts. Better yet, take a tip from Colin Reed, former CEO of Gaylord Entertainment. He scheduled a full day each month that any Gaylord employee could make an appointment to talk to him….about anything! They called to praise, to ask, to complain, and simply to talk to the CEO. Are you afraid all they’ll do is complain? That’s an even better reason to do it!! Proactively listen to and deal with the complaints before they become “the storm.”
- Ask the Tough Questions – Instead of asking “How’s It Going?” ask “What suggestions do you have that would make our workplace even better?”
Here’s a caution. Don’t ask for feedback if you’re not going to do anything with it. Of course, you can’t do everything everyone wants, but you can listen and address their concerns. Here’s a strategy I’m personally working on as a leader. When faced with a problem, I will first go to the team and ask for their input. Next, I’ll go “up the ladder” to people who have accomplished what I’m trying to accomplish. Then, I’ll take all of that input and go within and, knowing what I know now, ask my gut about the right direction. The key then is to go back to those who gave you input, thank them, be transparent about your reasons, and give credit where credit is due.
What about you? How do you listen to your team members? Why do you find it valuable? Or do you? Let me know in the comments below.
Donna Cutting is the Founder & CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Systems, Inc., a consulting firm that works with organizational leaders to help them create cultures of happy employees delivering excellent customer experiences. She’s the author of 2 books and is working on the 3rd. Her latest, 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red-Carpet for Your Customers is available on Amazon and anywhere books are sold. Email us at STARS@RedCarpetLearning.com if you’d like to explore working together.