Effective Listening

A CEO friend of mine told me not long ago that he came into work one Monday morning to find two-week notices of resignation from four members of his key management team on his desk. He stood there, stunned, and could not imagine how he was going to survive the loss of these key people. 

After taking a few moments to think about what to do, he called them all into his office and humbly asked them what was the matter. It was what they were waiting for, and they gave him an earful. When they were finished, he did the only thing he could think of. He asked them if they would stay and give him a chance to make the changes in his behavior to which they were objecting. 

The answer from them all was a qualified "yes." Things had to change, and they were willing to see if he was serious. They recognized that it is not easy to change habits of many years, but they were willing to give him a chance. 

My friend was lucky. He got a punch to the gut that opened his eyes and made him realize that there were a few things that he needed to work on in how he related to employees, and he was more than willing to do that. Many CEOs go blithely on, suffering high employee turnover and constant disruptions, without ever learning what is at the heart of the problem. 

The answer is that we have to develop a keen ear and listen carefully. We need to ask questions and then thoughtfully listen to the answers. And there needs to enough trust for people to respond honestly, without fear of retribution. 

When I ran my own company I designed a questionnaire called the Employee Satisfaction Index. Ten questions with a score of one to ten. I wanted employees to enjoy working for me and so I asked them if they did. It was answered on a strictly confidential basis, and I published the scores and all the comments, good or bad, and promised to work on the low scores. Pretty simple really, but I got an earful without facing a mass resignation or high turnover. 

We also implemented a "Rate Your Boss" system call an Upstream Evaluation. A chance for all managers to get an "earful" from their direct reports. We all want to be good managers and leaders and so we asked them how we were doing. Again on a strictly confidential basis. All scores and comments were published with the promise to work on those areas needing improvement. 

Two tools that greatly enhanced the communications in the company and made us all smarter and better leaders. Simple and easy to do, and hopefully avoids that hard punch to the gut! 

Click on the two links below to get copies of what we used, and think about trying them in your company. Your employees will thank you for it! 

Employee Satisfaction Index

Upstream Evaluation

Tracy Bech