Why Successful Leadership Starts with Listening
Leadership should be a two-way street, but managers in US organizations are falling behind. According to a 2019 study, 83 percent of workers would like their managers to ask for their opinions more often.
You’re in a management role for a reason. But that doesn’t mean that your teams can’t contribute effective ideas. Equally, a key part of your role is to listen to and address their concerns.
Here, we outline how you can improve your leadership by listening to your employees.
Make performance reviews a two-way street
Most businesses will carry out monthly, quarterly, or annual performance reviews. But many won’t be using them to their full potential. In recent years, performance reviews have been criticized for focusing on looking backward instead of forward. What’s more, 30 percent of employees find them unhelpful.
While it’s important to review your employees’ performance and identify areas in which they’re doing well, as well as what they could improve on, use them as collaborative sessions. In addition to identifying actions for your team members going forward, allow them to provide feedback. Are they receiving adequate support? Do they have any ideas that could improve your team or business performance? Do they have any concerns they need you to address?
Not only will this allow you to become better at listening to your employees, but it also creates an open and inclusive environment. This is essential to making them feel comfortable sharing their concerns, opinions, and ideas in the first place.
Create forums for employees to provide ideas and feedback
First and foremost, your employees should feel comfortable contributing ideas and feeding back about areas they’d like to see improved. Creating an environment of trust is essential to this, which can in part be achieved by the above point. But so is giving your employees additional appropriate platforms to submit feedback.
Having an online forum or tool specifically for employee feedback can help you facilitate this. If you adopted a tool like Microsoft Teams during the pandemic, you could create a chat or a team in there to allow employees to submit ideas and concerns.
Allowing employees to submit feedback privately or anonymously is also an important option. They might have a concern that is important to them, but it’s not something they want to speak about publicly. This is especially true if their feedback is constructive criticism. You could use an online survey tool that allows them to share their thoughts directly rather than in a shared forum. Equally, you could utilize the same tool to allow them to do it anonymously.
Ultimately, you need honest feedback from your employees and giving them an anonymous option will make them feel more comfortable about this.
Group and prioritize the feedback
Eliciting honest feedback from your people is important. But there’s little point in this if you don’t do anything with it. Categorizing the ideas and concerns your employees are submitting will allow you to deal with them more effectively.
When collecting feedback, encourage open discussion so that employees can talk about anything on their minds, or ask for ideas or thoughts on specific areas you want to improve on. Splitting this firstly by new ideas, like a change in your strategy, and concerns, such as slow processes, is a good place to start.
Once you’ve done this, you can start to address your two strands and work out key priorities. If one theme — such as high workloads — surfaces over and over again, this should be a top priority. Having an effective change management process in place is important too, especially if your employees are contributing to your overall business goals.
Be transparent with the changes you make
However you choose to collect employee feedback, make sure you’re providing regular updates on how you’re taking this on board and responding to it. Communication is key to your team members trusting you — 41 percent of US employees think their managers should improve their communication skills.
If your company hosts regular business updates, this is a great opportunity to share your updates. Collate the feedback you’ve addressed into groups of similar ideas or concerns, and share the changes you’ve made, or plan to make, in response.
Don’t feel like you need to be limited to formal meetings either — if you have an intranet or a dedicated feedback tool, utilize this to share frequent updates on the progress you’re making. Proactively providing updates throughout the year will show your people that you’re listening to them and actioning their feedback.
There are many skills required to be a good leader. As well as being confident in your own decision making, you should also be open to listening to your employees. Whether they have ideas on how your business can improve its operations or they need to share some concerns, creating an environment that makes them feel heard and understood is important.