Yuletide revelations – a listening lesson for leaders by Sally Prescott

By Steve Williams

Can you, hand on heart, say you know what makes each and every member of your team tick? Can you list the things that are important to them in their personal life, what achievements they are proud of, and if anything might be preventing them from doing their job properly?

It’s absolutely crucial for managers and leaders to understand what employees really think and feel about their work. If you don’t understand your people, it’s impossible to build a motivated, loyal and successful team. Employment is a two way process. The employee is expected to show commitment and endeavour, and in return they expect to be rewarded by their employer. Financial reward is a basic need. Engagement, recognition, and empathy are what boost the employer/employee relationship to the next level.

And there’s a very easy way for leaders to achieve this – listen and observe.

The proof is in the pudding

I recently worked with a leader of a high-performing, long-serving and loyal team. She asked a male member of her team, ‘What’s important to you in your life right now?’

He replied, ‘My eldest two children are all grown up now. I’ve missed out on so much of their early lives because of my work. My daughter is really into her football, so that’s important.’

The leader responded ‘How can I help you to support your daughter?’ He revealed his daughter has football practice on Thursday nights but he wasn’t ever able to go and support her due to the timing of his shifts. Knowing how important this was to their employee, the team leader re-arranged the shift patterns to ensure he was always free on a Thursday evening to attend football practice. As a result, the team member has become even more loyal and motivated member of the team.

I love this story. It’s wonderful proof that listening and showing consideration and flexibility as a leader can truly pay off.

Do you hear what I hear?

Christmas party season is the ideal time to find out more about what makes your team tick. We all know when people let their hair down, words generally flow a little easier and people are more honest with their opinions!

Now I’m not suggesting you ply your employees with alcohol and interrogate them in the corner of the dance floor. No sinister techniques required here! Simply take advantage of a relaxed social occasion to talk, listen, and learn more about your team. And I mean really listen. Even if you hear something you don’t like, try not to become defensive. Of course, if you hear an untruth about your organisation, be quick to dispel that myth and explain the reality. Use open questions as the leader did in the story above, and listen and learn from the conversation.

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

Leading a team becomes so much easier when you know the people you work alongside and understand what’s important to them. Armed with a simple snippet of information, you can transform people’s working and personal lives and take your team to the next level of engagement.

Enjoy your Christmas party and don’t forget to wear your listening ears!