Listening to Your Employees
The Big Apple
Hearing: More than Listening
I came across this interview with Steve Jobs, and it really impressed me how much he valued and communicated with his people. I began asking myself a series of questions that I thought might have value to business leaders:
1) Have you been in any recent conversations that frustrated you?
2) Have you attempted to communicate with someone who didn't seem the least bit interested in you, your need or the solution?
3) Have you experienced the difficulties of language barriers through outsourcing customer service calls?
These 3 simple questions can provide valuable consideration in the assessment of your current business success. Contemplating the answers might provide some thought-provoking change that your employees might be interested in helping to improve. The is a solution, and it may be easier than we think.
Customer service is important to you if you own or manage a business for someone else. Good leaders know the basics of what makes people tick, and what produces profit for their company. You may have already carved out your niche in the market and have fine tuned the details that can become obstacles during the journey to the top. You probably hired a competent sales and marketing staff, a Web team that majors in cutting-edge technology.
To complement the total picture, you have assembled a financial team that rarely misses the numbers game and the trends in the market. You are moving forward faster than you ever imagined.
The need for constant learning, training, evaluating, refining and redirecting is obvious; every great leader is going to make that a priority. People working up to their potential are generally happy serving the mission of the company. if your people aren't listening to you or your customers, however, and you make a practice of not listening to them, you may be headed for a serious breakdown. Change is required, and it is not always easier, but it can be good for everyone in the end.
Remember that the most often overlooked business resource is your people. Although micro management is still prevalent across the world, it most often stifling and downright oppressive. Are you interested in progressing to the technological potential that self-motivated creative people can take your company?
If your people know they aren't going to be heard by management, how will you motivate them to listen to your clients or customers? If they come to work and the only reward is a paycheck, even in today's market, they may stay, but will they really be productive?
All these things hinge on an employee's perception of how they fit in your organization. If they sense they are not going to be empowered in some contributing way, it is sheer foolishness to expect their loyalty. Incentives can be great, but for some it is not their bottom line. People want to be acknowledged and they want what they do to count.
Consider this: people were created to flourish in every aspect of their lives, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We need balance to flourish. When we don't listen, we don't learn. When we don't learn, we don't change. When we don't change, we die a slow death mostly from boredom, and no hope or sense of purpose.
We need a mission in life, whether we choose to serve ourselves or others is up to us. Personally, serving others is far more satisfying to me. I have done both, and in both, I learned to listen and listen intently, both to what was said, and what was not said. What is not said, is far too often a result of oppressive management or leadership styles.
Failure to listen is often based on one's own fears or bias, the possibility that someone else might have a better idea, a better way, and in our worse-case scenarios, take our very position. We then protect our archaic, outdated agenda, and frustrate the very people that have been brought to us to take us to the next level. Employees must be reminded that they matter.
You just might be surprised how many of your employees feel resentful that you don't listen or even care about the ideas that they have to improve their job function. When you do a job daily, day in and day out, you learn what is a waste of time, and what works. I know because I counsel people and I ask. Dissatisfaction is the result of not being regarded as valuable or acknowledge as relevant to the business and its' projects.
Businesses and government agencies are continue to spin their wheels all the way until the train goes off the track. Have they forgotten that the objective is to make money and serve people? I think the answer lies at the top, what is the mindset of the leader? Is it a false promise of security that fosters insurance that their job can never be taken from them? I think in many cases it is disheartening and causes high turnover. Very little listening goes on in these environments between customers, employers, or employees.
Listen and observe the next time you are in a county, state or federal office for "customer service". How often do you walk out feeling like anyone listened or helped you? Therein lies the proof. Only in a passport office did I experience any level of true professionalism comparable to the private sector. Mostly there are employees milling around doing little, although there may be a few exceptions. I haven't seen them often.
Now all of us are aware the economy has taken a serious downturn, but as businesses fail daily, and government offices increase, I tend to be concerned about our future. I find myself wondering if there are some which should be headed to the end of their cycle anyway, because as we are well aware, they don't work.
Let's imagine just for one day, what it would be like to not listen. In our finite thinking, nothing could be accomplished at all. Here's how it would look:
1. When we wake, our spouse and family would assume the worst; that you are mad because you are not speaking to them.
2. If you were in driving a car, and you got stopped, and you said nothing to the officer, he might be relieved but you would be frustrated. You would refrain from giving your excuse for speeding be it truthful or not. You might be arrested if he instructs you to give him the registration and insurance and you weren't listening.
3. Afterwards, if this doesn't happen, you go to the market. It takes you twice as long to shop because you ignore the person who offers you help.
4. You ignore the people at work, because you are in your own little world. Goals are not accomplished.
5. You go home silently in your car, and receive no input from the news or encouragement from the music.
6. You arrive home and your husband calls to ask you out for dinner and you don't respond because you aren't listening.
7. Then you go to bed, with your family still wondering what your problem might be.
8. You wake up and start the same cycle.
How futile an existence, and how self-absorbed do you think you could be by the end of the week? I think about the movie the Aviator, and I can imagine, but then Howard Hughes at least had movies, and he still went crazy. We simply were not made to live in isolation, and we need to communicate. It takes a conscious effort to listen. We do most of it with our eyes and ears, that's why we were given two of each, I think.
In conclusion, I humbly suggest that a new move could take place, starting with me. It could revolutionize our nation, change our families and rock your world. Take time to listen, and restrain our thoughts and tongues. To make every effort possible to not answer until we really hear the person facing us, whoever they may be, and wherever they may be.
Our part would be to cease from interrupting or judging or attempting to convince before another's voice or expression is heard. To not fear hearing a differing opinion, suggestion or solution that just might be the right one. To even listen to someone who needs a solution that they might come to themselves if we just choose to listen.
Our employees might exceed our expectation, and we might just work on giving them the credit and rewards that keep them motivated. Then we just might rise a little higher as a true leader of people, and a genius in your field, just because you made the choice to listen. A smarter, wiser boss just might emerge! The good news is, you can take this home and practice it there until you have it mastered, and it only gets better from here!