“We listen” is simple tool that results in high employee engagement

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? 

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  1. didiwright on June 14, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I absolutely love how you ended the post…”Make a difference, one conversation at a time”, this should be framed and hanged on all office walls in the world. It seems like the key concept is, again, communication. It would be very easy to change the world for the better: listen, understand, communicate. Voila!
    That conference sounds very interesting. I’m not a big fan of corporate talk, as it is very often used by companies to hide behind and fool the public. However, I’ve got no problem with it when it’s founded on reality and is supported by real actions. I think the concepts behind are actually very good and effective.
    I love the paragraph about dogs and the roles they play in our lives or the life of the community. I very much admire dogs involved in rescue, guide, police, etc. activities. I think they’re fabulous, just like the people who train and handle them. But I also think that dogs like Grace and George, who are ‘just’ pets play a similarly important role, but on a different scale. The working dogs from the first category have an impact on the entire community, whilst dogs like ours impact a family. But, just because a family is smaller, it doesn’t mean that it’s less important. After all, family is at the base of society (and we can all see where our ‘modern’ society is heading because families are falling apart).

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on June 16, 2011 at 7:30 am

      Didi, your insights are always so thorough, on target, and thoughtful. The companies at this conference do “walk the talk” — but I know what you mean about being skeptical. So often we find hidden issues with organizations that we felt were so reputable. And yes, dogs play such an important role in our lives, don’t they?

  2. lifewith4cats on June 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    There is a world of difference between hearing and listening. I agree.
    As far as the corporate world is concerned? I miss the old days of the small time store. like Sears and Roebuck the way it used to be. But then thats me living in the past. To this day, I still beleive that a mans word should be sealed on a handshake. It makes the bussiness a pleasure to shop in and/or work for. Happy people are loyal people. It always comes down to a few simple, key things. Like respect, trust. empathy.
    You would know best, in this department. I simply shake my head in wonder, while shopping on-line to avoid the hassle of poor service and brainwashing marketing pushes.Too much of that is corporations demanding me to listen to them, instead of the other way around.

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on June 16, 2011 at 7:34 am

      I agree that trust and respect are critical to any good business transaction or relationship. And I can honestly say that I do experience those in business today. I also think consumers are demanding that the companies they buy from have standards that match their own. I see it a lot in our communities, where people shop from smaller, local stores that provide good service and support the community. Hopefully the pendulum is swinging back to the “handshake” model!

  3. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide on June 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I bet conversations with Grace are fun!

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on June 16, 2011 at 7:35 am

      Well, it depends on the topic! If she’s just rolled in something disgusting, it’s not too fun. 🙂

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