A Pee Wee Herman “Listening Culture”
Sometimes managers just talk too much. Our mantra is listen more, talk less. Employees who believe they are being heard with resulting changes or tweaks to how things are run are generally the most satisfied in their jobs. They feel empowered and they feel they are a part of the process. Those who don’t feel they can share ideas, concerns and frustrations freely with their managers tend to feel isolated and constrained. It isn’t uncommon for employees to feel that they aren’t being heard. Listening to employees is a great way to get far greater buy-in from employees. What are their frustrations? What ideas do they have for improving things? Are there things the manager isn’t aware of that could help in addressing a number of performance and morale issues?
A critical point here is that you want to avoid listening just to listen. Employees will quickly sniff out the manager who is insincere about asking employees to sound off. They will wonder what is up. Why is the manager suddenly asking for input when it rarely, if ever, happened before? If a manager is going to be a good listener, it’s important to actively listen and then use feedback from employees to move things forward and improve things.
A trap to avoid is believing everything you hear. The feedback from employees can range anywhere from completely accurate to complete rubbish. Over some period of time, astute managers form opinions about what is really happening by listening to all employees and piecing things together. Good listeners are active listeners and they ask good questions that will draw out important information and help sort out the inaccuracies.
Creating a listening culture takes some time. Building trust is probably the most crucial element of the process. Employees have to feel they can trust managers to keep confidential information they share and to use that information in a positive and productive way. When managers blab and misuse the information, there can be no traction toward a culture of active and productive listening.
Does your organization have a “listening culture”? If so, what does it look like? Is is embedded in such a way that the feedback from employees feels natural and not contrived? Do employees more often than not bring forward good ideas and offer solutions rather than just problems? Are employees comfortable sharing information? Take a look around and see what you find.