“I give up! Why should I bother to share ideas about how our company can improve our products and services, be more successful, and increase profits? Nobody ever listens anyway.”
I hear some variation of this comment wherever I deliver my keynotes and workshops. It’s usually followed by a remark that goes something like this. “I wish my boss (manager/supervisor /leader) could hear you talk about how we ALL can learn from each other.”
Successful leaders get the point. They know that whether they’re working directly with a customer or they’re working with someone who is, the ultimate goal is to create an outstanding product or service that customers want and need. In addition to sharing their own ideas, they’re ready and willing to listen to others’ ideas and learn from them.
Recently I was privileged to keynote a corporate client’s annual conference. Instead of the usual sales meeting format, they expanded their event to include those in leadership positions at every level in every area of the company. I gave all of them an assignment before they arrived. They were to come prepared with feedback gathered from their own departments on specific issues.
This means they had to take time in advance to communicate with every team member in person, by phone or by email, asking for their input and suggestions as to how the company could improve its products, increase profits and deliver better service. We talked about leadership, communication and managing change. Between sessions people had the opportunity to interact, discuss issues, solve problems and figure out how to work together more effectively.
Leaders in this company gave more than lip service to the phrase “our people are our most important asset.” They shared their vision for where they wanted to take the company. Then they asked questions about how policies, procedures and customer service could be improved to help them do that. Everyone gained valuable skills they could implement when they returned to their teams. People had the opportunity to rethink how they could help the people in their respective departments meet and exceed their goals.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not typical of most organizations. Some leaders get so busy “leading” that they forget to communicate what’s important. They assume others know as much as they know. They don’t ask questions, listen, or act on others’ feedback – no matter how valuable it is. Let’s face it. No one wants to be left out of the loop, misunderstood or surprised by news they should have already known. Strong and confident leaders share information, are open to new ideas, and are committed to creating a culture that is trusting and productive.
How would you describe communication in your organization? Is it open… honest… direct… responsive…and inclusive? What did your last leadership meeting look like and sound like? Do your leaders bring people together to talk about how you can help each other reach your goals – for now and for the future? Are they open to listening to new ideas from smart, creative and dedicated people, no matter what their job title happens to be? Good leaders never miss an opportunity to learn, and to let others know that someone really IS listening.