Listening For What Is Right by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

As a leader in any type of organization, it is easy to become trapped in doing specific things in your organization. Often leaders tend to be unaware of the issues that team members face, including some of the challenges or obstacles that may be occurring within the team, organization, or the project.

This lack of understanding of what is happening with the team becomes an additional challenge. The team or the employees may feel the management is not listening to their day-to-day challenges, which creates a sense of disconnect for the employee.

Leaders can also feel pressure and demands about deadlines, production, and meeting key objectives. In their role, they may feel they have too much to do and not enough time or feel let down by the team when problems or challenges occur.

In some cases, the team has ideas, solutions, and answers to problems. The employees may feel their solutions are not welcome or valued if leaders do not make it a priority to listen. However, in addition to just listening, the leader must also act on the information the employee provides.

The Art of Listening

The art of listening is more than just leaning in, making eye contact, and hearing what the employee is saying. These are important aspects of listening, but they are everything.

As a leader, listening and asking for more information to fully understand the information provided is critical. Asking questions gives the speaker the confirmation that the message is being heard and the information is being considered.

A leader should acknowledge the information the employee brings to the meeting. In some cases, the information may not be what the leader wants to hear. Acknowledging the employee’s efforts to bring this information forward is critical to keeping the lines of communication open.

Commitment to Action 

The missing component to many of these conversations with employees is for the manager or leader to commit to some type of action based on the information provided by the employee. This could be correcting a problem, addressing an oversight brought to the leader’s attention, or reviewing the feasibility of a proposed change or new approach. In some cases, it may be to commit to study the idea, gather additional information, or seek clarification.

By committing to the employee to do what is right from the conversation, there is an immediate level of respect, trust, and validation provided. This is essential in a healthy workplace culture and continues to build on the creativity, problem-solving, and loyalty employees feel towards employers, organizations, and teams.