Workers respect leaders who know what is really going on
If you work on the front lines, you expect company leaders to know about and care about what is happening. Workers want leaders who get what is going on. Clued-in leaders not only command the respect of employees but are better able to make smart decisions.
It means creating a workplace culture where employees are encouraged to share their ideas and where leaders not only listen, but act based on what they hear. "How are we doing?" should be a question asked often.
Clued-in leaders arm employees with what it takes to be successful and focus on continuous improvement.
When senior leaders appear out of the loop, it is difficult for employees to connect with the company’s mission and strategy. That gulf also means senior leaders are missing the valuable insights from those closest to customers.
Among the highest-rated Top Workplaces, more than 90% of employees say their leaders are clued in. That is a high bar, but it is one that is attainable with the right approach.
Efforts to ensure leaders understand what is really happening within the organization are most successful when practiced across all levels of the organization.
Leaders need to be aware of external challenges and communicate about them when appropriate. They need to be honest about what is working and what is not.
Managers need to emphasize the importance of connecting with employees and practicing active listening. They place a premium on clear, consistent communication.
If this is an area where your organization needs improvement, here is how to get started:
- Promote an open-door policy: Actively demonstrate a genuine open-door policy for all employees.
- Practice active listening: Encourage everyone–especially leaders– to practice active listening, and then model it in conversations.
- Ask for input: Make a point of asking employees for their feedback.
Once you establish those basics, build toward bigger picture plans:
- Connect with key employees: Hold skip-level meetings to increase the connection with employees.
- Formalize the collection of employee feedback: Survey whenever it makes sense – especially following an organizational change, acquisition, etc.
- Capture improvement ideas: Create forums to encourage employees to share their ideas for improvement. Make sure there is a systematic way to track those ideas and implementation.
- Act on issues that matter most: When employees do not see leadership working on obvious issues, they believe leaders are uninformed or burying their heads in the sand. Focus on the biggest problems impacting employees and the organization.
Beware of caustic culture issues that can create problems. This includes:
- Only listening to certain employees, or assuming one employee speaks for the whole team. Try to diversify feedback sources.
- Getting defensive when receiving difficult feedback. Good leaders remain open-minded and solution oriented.
- Forgetting to close the loop on ideas you cannot – or will not – act on. Take the time to provide feedback and offer suggestions for improvement.
- Focusing on talking rather than listening. Set aside time to be an active and engaged listener.
Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s survey partner for Top Workplaces.
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