Listening: The #1 Quality in Bosses

You’ve got to love them, for without, you would fail. I’m talking about employees. Without the chef, the restaurant’s customers would go hungry. Without teachers, the students wouldn’t learn. Without the office secretary, calls would go unanswered and appointments unmade. Realizing this, we must ask ourselves if we are relating to our employees as being a vital component to our company’s success, or as public enemy number one.

Business owners and managers spend a considerable amount of effort attempting to motivate staff so as to increase their level of production, commitment and cooperation. Time and money is spent on in-services, training programs, expensive reward programs, and day long workshops; all in the hope that employees will receive the instruction that will successfully motivate them. Yet the goals set by these programs often fall short. When that happens, accusations and disciplinary actions may follow. This typically doesn’t help motivate the employees, either. Why? Training or rewards were externally imposed upon the workers. True success comes when the employee is invested in the program being offered.

Employee enrichment programs typically emphasize worker growth. Yet employees naturally possess the ability to be creative and passionate towards their work. What is required for these natural traits to be developed is for employers to become better listeners.

Listening is an underappreciated skill in communicating the company values with staff. Listening communicates respect, trust, and how we expect others to be treated. The manner in which we treat our employees is how they in turn treat their work, each other, and your customers.

Employees need to believe that an employer values them as individuals, and are committed to making their needs and interests a priority in the company. Listening affirms this, by conveying empathy and awareness of their issues. The employees in turn will learn to respect, trust and respond to the value system of the employer. Think of it like a tennis match. You serve ‘empathy’ to your opponent, and she hits ‘trust’ back to you. You return the volley with ‘concern’, and she serves back ‘commitment to your company values’. To remain credible with your staff, you must continue the ongoing process of listening. Failure to listen, or in this metaphor, failure to return the volley, will result in the breakdown of trust and respect.

Doubters should reflect back on their childhood. Do you remember a parent instructing you to follow his or her instructions, “Because I said so”? This closed, rather than open, form of communication did little to add to your respect and appreciation of this parent’s agenda. This is because your parent was trying to gain your cooperation by controlling you. It may have been successful for the short run, but you were not invested in the plan, and probably complied with less than spectacular effort and plenty of resentment. If that style of leadership didn’t work back then, you can be sure it won’t work now.

So go back to your employees and be a great employer by listening. Truly listen to them. Such commitment to your staff will be a key to their growth and the success of your business.

Eileen Lenson
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