Visible Listening Will Drive Your Team’s Greatness

This post was written by Richard Bourgault – Power Connections Alumnus

It has been my experience that the opportunity to be heard among your team members is a powerfully motivating force, and your ability and willingness to listen to them empowers them to contribute to the goals that are set for them. Being “visible” and heard gives employees strength and an esteem that fosters exceptional performance, goal achievement, and the drive to move beyond those goals, reaping much more for you and your company.

But, sadly, not all of us are comfortable in our own visibility with our employees, much less the process of listening to them when they have great ideas to share. I have observed managers who lack the confidence to lead teams overcompensate by creating structures and tons of complex procedures, attempting to reassure themselves of their ability to lead. Their employee presentations are stuffed with material that bolsters their view of themselves as strong leaders, yet often does nothing to encourage and empower employee feedback. Talking at team members is not the same as talking with them in a two-way street of listening and acknowledging.

Why is this effort important to you? Let me give you some great ideas that you can use.

Business team members working togetherFirst, consider the job responsibilities each of our team members fulfills each day. Perhaps our team is in the trenches every day, selling by seeing and hearing the customer experience in real time. This is applicable in every step of the internal and external processes. The success of their jobs greatly depends on the company ability to meet customer’s needs, provide quality products, customer retention strategies, and of course, meeting sustainable growth as they utilize these strengths. Couldn’t we contribute to their even greater success by showing our focused intent on listening to their ideas? This is part of our own accountability. I have yet to meet a manager whose own performance is not measured directly by that of his team.

Every team member in every business plays a critical role in its success. Maybe our team is in production, engineering, IT, logistics, or sales, yet, as leaders of these teams, we often overlook the value of their ideas, feedback, and the knowledge and know-how they convey in their performance. Why are so many of us leaders unresponsive to them? It’s a mistake that creates waste and chips away at the bottom line.

Again, it’s my experience that giving employees a voice to express improvements will give them accountability and impact on business results. We had implemented a plan that allowed everyone to express their ideas every day. If you do this, you will see the difference in team behavior and attitude. We held a 15-minute daily standup meeting with a group of five or six employees at a time, where each offered ideas that would be posted on an idea board. This created a visual representation of the way ideas moved through the improvement process. Keeping the ideas in the original form gives to everyone the sense of ownership when suggestions retain their fingerprints. Giving each employee the time to consider ideas throughout the day was encouraged. Their ideas moved across the board from “Ideas”, “To do”, “Doing”, and “Done”. Once a week, the supervisor and the team leader reviewed newly submitted ideas to advance them to the “To Do” column or reject them.

Was it easy to fit even a simple process into an organizational structure? Not always, but you will find that 15 minutes can be carved out of each day. It’s just 15 minutes. If you think about how much time in a day is devoted to non-work activities, you have to admit it can be done. Why not give employees the time to suggest improvements that will have added value.

Everything was visible to them, giving each credit. We actively worked on them. In the beginning we were clear that anyone could be a leader and all of their ideas were valuable. Some had been quiet about ideas that they had, concerned they would not be respected. With this plan, they were all given the chance to express their ideas and be well received. Our goal was to increase reliability and productivity through their own ideas.

It was not always about rejecting a process or throwing it out. If an idea became an action plan, we implemented it. Each idea had an employee name on it, to make sure credit was given where it was due. We gave each idea five days to consider, to make sure each employee knew quickly if their idea was to be used, or not. Sometimes we needed more resources or an investment. If the idea was beyond the resources or ability of the team, it was moved from the team leader to a support group or assigned to another specific individual. If ideas were rejected, supervisor and team leader explained the reasons and put them on the board behind each posted card. The reasons for rejections were typically the scope, things for other departments to do, or relevance to the business. Each employee knew they could submit as many ideas as they wished.

What I wanted was to keep it simple and the process very transparent. We ultimately implemented multiple employee ideas. We rewarded and celebrated with the group for having reached designated levels of implemented suggestions.

You can bet that our employees of all levels of job descriptions have valuable ideas. They have just given up on the futility of making suggestions that have the potential to take their team’s performance to the next level, because we have quit asking and listening. When our employees no longer share great ideas with us, nor submit new ways of doing things that will benefit our organization, or even stop contributing to meetings that we conduct, the wheels of their valuable ideas grind to a halt. My friends, we have effectively stifled feedback that could make our teams soar even higher.

If we will encourage employees to take ownership of their success, and welcome and listen to their ideas, the rewards to our company’s bottom line will be greater than our goals.

Once we encourage their ideas, our employees will open up to freely express valuable suggestions for making their teams great. It will lead to more accountability, creativity, and efficiency in execution.

It will positively impact your employee’s success, and thus, your own.

Now, isn’t that a great idea?


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