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Stop, Look & Listen

A big part of being a good leader is to do a self-check every so often. Sometimes, you really need to stop, look and listen to what is going on around you. Managers and leaders get so caught up in focusing on operational excellence that they fail to focus on leadership excellence. In my years in HR, I have had many a conversation with managers on this subject and far too many managers instinctively feel they are doing a good job managing their staff and keeping them engaged. When I ask them why they feel that way, the answer is often something akin to, “well, no one is coming to complain.” Well, I hate to tell you, but if that is your barometer for leadership excellence, there is probably room for improvement!

Good leaders need to take the time to stop, look and listen. As you balance all the challenges of the day/week/month, it is easy to get caught up and not do this. However, it is of critical importance, if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of your department or organization, that you carve out time to observe your employees and really get a feel for what they are telling you (or not telling you.) As indicated above, far too many a manager is happy if their day goes by without employees “bothering” them. These are the same managers who have disengaged employees, high turnover, productivity issues and communication challenges in their work group. When you ask them how things are going with their staff, they will say that “things are good”, “everyone is happy”, etc. Trust me when I tell you “it isn’t” and “they aren’t.”

Stop Look ListenAs a leader, you need to make sure you are taking the time to build relationships, foster trust, and enhance communication with your staff. You need to be seen as someone who supports their development and can remove roadblocks/obstacles to their success. For most leaders, when gauging “how things are going” with your employees, the signs are there if you take the time to stop, look and listen. For example, if you find that you hearing about most of your employees’ concerns from your manager, than it is obvious your employees are by passing you. Therefore, you need to stop being seen as someone who is a roadblock and start becoming engaged in the communication process with your employees. Stop avoiding having 1:1 discussions with your staff and/or stop doing all the talking during these meetings and start to listen to their concerns. Listen to what your employees are actually asking/telling you – this way, you will become the go-to person for them when they are experiencing work related challenges and not your boss! You need to be the enabler and the one who works with them to resolve the issues and NOT the impediment to progress!

Look for the signs that your staff sees you as their leader. Do they come to you to give you the “heads up” on pending employee relations issues? Do they give you the old, “you didn’t hear this from me, but…” line? These are all good signs that they trust and respect you and don’t want you to get blindsided by something. If you are never in the loop on anything and aren’t experiencing this, it could be because your employees don’t trust you and that you haven’t taken the time to build and foster effective working relationships with them.

Another way to gauge things in your work unit is to make sure you actively listen during department meetings. Does your staff ask you questions? Are they curious about what is going with the department/company? Do you have answers for these questions? If you don’t, do you pledge to get the answers and then follow through on this commitment? If the answer to some or all of these questions is “no,” than these are all signs that you are not achieving leadership excellence and need to incorporate more stop, look and listen into your daily management routine.

The good news in all of this is that by incorporating this stop, look and listen approach, you can quickly turn the corner and be that trusted advisor with your staff as you make the journey towards leadership excellence. It takes the desire and focus to want to change you leadership approach; and just as importantly, it requires you to focus on enhancing your communication skills. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of  Freefoto.com


3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the article Scott. I think that this makes total sense and reading about it makes me feel good because it sounds like I did many things right. People did give me heads up, come to me with inquiries and concerns and sometimes, they were not even reporting directly to me. I liked to visit my team and ask them how things were and if they needed anything when I checked in each day. If they did not like themselves, I would ask if anything was bothering them. I think I was honest and willing to look into something if I truly did not know the answer or needed to fix the problem. Of course, this is always going to be someone who wants to go over you. I found this happened most times when the request could not be accommodated.

  2. WOW – my “manager” is only my manager by title only, this article is direct proof. We do not even speak to each other on some days. We work in HR too.

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