Listen Up, Leader

Features - Professional Development

Employees want to be heard. Are you listening?

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September 17, 2018
Matt Boelman
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I sometimes hear business owners and managers say: “All my people want is more money!” I think one of the critical mistakes we make as owners and managers is the misconception that all employees want is to make more money. Sure, we all want to make more money, but it’s not what drives us as owners and managers, and that’s certainly not the case for all employees. The truth is, we all want to be valued within our position.

Value comes in many forms that include monetary value, but it’s certainly not the only motivator for employees. The truth is, employees want to have a voice that can be heard. They want to have a say in their career and path within the company, and they want to have your respect as an owner or manager to help guide in their success. For in all honesty, it’s imperative to your success as an owner or manager as well.

When managing or engaging with employees, it’s a common mistake for leaders to do all the talking — here’s what you can do better, here’s how you can improve, this is how you make more money. We as leaders have all the answers right? Wrong! We forget our No. 1 responsibility as a leader, and that is to listen.

I’ve been blessed with a number of mistakes by my lack of listening. Yes, I said blessed. It’s given me a roadmap each time to improve myself as a leader by learning to engage differently, ask questions that allow employees or peers to express their concerns or opinions, and force myself to be silent while taking in another point of view. It’s allowed me to grow and evolve my leadership skills through previous failure, and for that, I am blessed.

Your people are full of wonderful ideas. They have incredible insight to how your customers feel and want to be treated. Employees have creative vision, empathy, and a passion for learning and doing a “great” job for the company they work for, and in many cases, they are the “face of the company”.

Learning how to listen takes practice and patience. Listening takes a committed effort to staying silent, when you feel you need to answer the question or voice your opinion. The only way to crack the ideas and insight of your employees is to build trust by being quiet. Ask questions such as how can I help you, what can we do to improve your work/life balance, what do you dislike about your job the most? Questions like these open the “floodgates” to employee engagement, and give you all the things you need to know to operate and run or manage your employees or business. Questions like this also establish trust between you and your employees and peers.

There is no exact roadmap or science to improving your listening skills, only trial and error based on your success or failures that come up within your business. I challenge you to think about the next time your engaging with your employees or peers, to remind yourself, “Listen up, leader.”

Matt Boelman is the vice president at Perficut in Des Moines, Iowa. He’s a 2012 Leadership Award recipient and frequent Snow Magazine contributor.