“Who created these standards?”
“Were there any employees in the room during the policy change meeting?”
“We gave management all of these recommendations – why didn’t they consider at least one of them?”
If you are an employee, you have either asked yourself these questions or left meetings hearing fellow co-workers discussing them. Why didn’t leaders actively listen and apply the concerns and suggestions we offered?
In my 20+ years as an employee, I’ve had the opportunity to work in both the private sector and a federal agency, and this seems to be a common trend – management implementing policies, standards and procedures without taking into account the current issues, challenges or setbacks that are affecting the company’s productivity. Instead of addressing the current system problems, regulation changes or employee turnover, management tends to pile on more stress and pray that the new way will help catapult their company into the number one spot. One would think that this way of thinking would come automatically to a person in leadership, but after reading and attending many leadership conferences, I have come to believe and understand that every leader is not necessarily a leader.
When looking at leaders and the differences among them, in order for a company to excel, they must have leaders who are unafraid to listen to those who have the responsibility of keeping them great. Real leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders. They don’t send emails, but instead delegate, ask for suggestions and implement to involve everyone.
When you listen from the bottom-up, you give yourself the opportunity to become the people’s champion. Any and every employee loves when their ideas are being executed or even considered. When their voice matters, so does your business.
But when you listen from the top down, you are left to face disgruntled employees who don’t mind being unproductive or doing just enough to maintain their job, but no extra. Instead of working toward your vision, they are now focused on their exit strategy. No one wants to be where they are undervalued, ignored or not appreciated. In addition, no one wants to feel like their company or agency is purposefully trying to fail them with unrealistic expectations.
If you are a leader or service in a position of management, listening and implementing policies will not only increase employee productivity and morale, it will guarantee you record returns and increased engagement. Here are seven ways you can implement a better relationship with your employees, to help them speak candidly on ways for company’s growth while giving them the opportunity to learn the inner workings themselves:
- Don’t just ask for their opinion; invite them to the meetings.
- Take a day to become an employee to understand the challenges they are faced with.
- Maintain compassion and empathy when an employee is faced with adversity.
- Trust your team enough to want better for them. The company can’t survive without them.
- Offer them opportunities to explore and serve on details to learn the inner workings of the company.
- Keep your word! Your word is the only thing that keeps respect.
- Make every employee #1 on your list. They do work for you, right?
In a society where companies are folding, employees have greater options and entrepreneurship is highly celebrated, companies need to be more employee-driven rather than number- and delegation-driven. You can’t just delegate work, give performance appraisals and expect for individuals to stay until they retire. This is not the 1970s or even the 1990s when loyalty mattered. As technology grows and opportunities become plentiful, it’s time to get back in the business of listening before you look up and realize that the only people left to run the company are leadership!
Charron Hopson-Swift is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.