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The Newest Leadership Tool: Listening

The culture of a company revolves around telling employees what to do – and how that communication occurs.  Communication can be a one-way street in a typical work environment, from telling employees how to correctly do the job they’re assigned to how to file specific reports.  But, the best leaders understand there’s more to leading than dictating.  Companies across the globe are beginning to understand and use a powerful tool that is helping them push the boundaries of their industry.  They listen.

Poor training is one of the most common culprits of deaf ears in management.  Many companies have a similar protocol for training new employees: First, a training video, then (or instead of a video) new hires are placed in front of current employees to be instructed on a particular process.  From there, they’re lead down the hall to repeat the scenario.  There is little time for questions.  And, the data dump doesn’t lend itself well to questions, because many newcomers aren’t even sure what questions to ask.

Another opportunity to listen, that many companies miss, is when they make changes to the way they do business.  Changes to the way the company operates typically come in the form of edicts, straight from the big offices above.  While certain management personnel are consulted, the opinions of the employees on the front line may not be taken into consideration.  A change might save the company hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.  However, if the new plan damages employee engagement, it’s unlikely to be successful.  Too many changes without employee input leads to apathy, or worse, unwillingness to adhere to the changes.

Because programs such as training and cost-saving measures directly impact the company’s overall health, implementation is moving out of the boardroom and onto the floor.  It only takes a few cycles of poorly trained, poor performing, new employees for the issue to show up in diminishing revenue.  Establishing overall strategies that will shape the future of the company is exactly what upper management is for, but it’s important to put the finishing touches on plans after employees at varying levels have given constructive feedback.

Asking for employee input obligates a company to actually listen and process the feedback.  Your employees are smart – they’ll realize when you’re simply paying them lip service.  You may even be surprised at how valuable their feedback is.  It can be easy to overlook their daily involvement in every company process.  However, employees have an intricate knowledge of what works great and what aspects of their job drag them, and the company as a whole, down.  Armed with employee input, great plans become very effective changes.

At NBRI, our suggested course of action starts with an employee survey because it’s vital to know what your employees are thinking.  Making sweeping changes without employee input, or ignoring your employees, will alienate the people you need to operate the business.  Then, resurvey periodically to determine how effective your improvement initiatives have been. Contact us today to start listening.

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