Sometimes the work of a manager can be best accomplished by doing something very simple. Both dogs and progressive employers can serve as reminders and role models for this powerful (and free) technique.
When Grace ignores a request I make of her, it’s easy to accuse of her of not listening to me. That’s the way it feels to me.
But if I look at the situation from her perspective, I’d see that I misplaced the blame. It is in fact me that is not listening to her! For example, she loves to chase things, so when I ask her not to race after the chipmunk across the street, it must feel to her like I’m squelching one of her favorite things to do. She’s not thinking of safety; she’s thinking fun! It’s not that she isn’t listening, she’s moving ahead to take care of her own needs because I haven’t taken all of hers into consideration.
Far too often, managers do the same thing. They make decisions based on what they assume is in the best interest of the team and/or organization. But without involving others who are impacted by these choices, we are discounting valuable information (and feelings) that can help determine better outcomes. Effective communication happens when we involve both parties in the interaction: this is an important tenet for competent leadership.
Presenter offers solution that is simple, free, and accessible to everyone
While attending a conference yesterday, I heard a compelling presenter who shared what is done at her organization that results in exceptional employee engagement. The event was hosted by New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility (NHBSR), whose mission is to convene, inspire and support businesses and their community stakeholders to build a more sustainable environment for all. A lot of the discussion during the conference focused on good practices with employees and I found the simplest of advice to be the most important.
Presenter Connie Roy-Czyzowski, Vice President of Human Resources at Northeast Delta Dental, shared a key reason for their success as a preferred employer with this straight-forward advice: “We listen to people.”
She continued to say that even when they think they have listened a lot, they find they can listen more. They work hard to provide ongoing and multiple channels for employees to express their ideas and opinions, and they make sure they respond to the feedback. If they can’t implement something an employee wants, they tell them why. The only cost is time, but the payoffs are big, she said.
Don’t overlook how powerful this solution is just because it is so simple!
This advice sounds so simple that you might overlook the power of it. We all think we’re good listeners, but are we really? Do we listen enough? Do we listen deeply? I loved when Connie said they make an effort to “listen more.” The best way to know if you are as effective as you think you are is to ask your employees. What do they say about your listening abilities? One of the most common complaints I hear from employees is a lack of involvement; we all want to be heard and appreciated. Listening solves this issue!
The next time Grace wants to chase a squirrel, I’m going to listen to her before determining how to proceed. At least it opens the possibility that she and I can both enjoy the moment together while meeting our unique needs. That’s what a good manager would do. I will strive to remember the mantra that will no doubt improve all my interactions: “We listen. And then we listen more.”
Something as simple as having a meaningful conversation can be the most profound way to change the quality of your relationship. How often are you listening? In what ways can you listen more frequently or more deeply?