Can you remember the last time you received encouragement to share your thoughts or insights with someone to whom you didn’t directly report? It feels good, like you are being seen for more than the role that you have been hired for. Even better when you are listened to attentively. That interest tends to bring the employee to employee, or even employee to management divide, closer together.
I recall, with great clarity, just such a conversation when I was in my early twenties and working a summer job at a local restaurant.
One of the owners came in and he asked to speak with me. I was, understandably, nervous. As it turned out, he was interested to know my thoughts on the staffing for some of our crush times. Hesitant at first, I finally told him that it was inadequate. Customers were waiting too long, and service was suffering.
Waiting for his response, I worried about criticizing the way things were done. Smiling, he thanked me for my candor. By the next weekend, the staffing schedule changed.
That conversation and the ensuing changes left me feeling as more than a mere cog in the process of serving the customers. My insights mattered, my voice, heard. It was empowering and for the remainder of the summer months, a much happier place to work.
Remove the ego and foster more positive work cultures
This is where remarkable leaders are seen. Remove the leadership ego and instead foster and support a culture of shared learning and insights. Leaders understand this doesn’t “just happen.” By communicating expectations, nurturing and modeling the behaviour, work cultures are transformed.
Consider schools, in which there is a diverse employee group. The hierarchy begins with the principal, then vice principals. Next are the teachers, then the educational assistants. Finally, the office administrators and the maintenance workers. Each group interacts with students, parents and each other in different ways. Often there are real divisions between the staff and the amount of inclusion or exclusion that each group feels.
All are working in one degree or another, to support the learning needs of the students. Unfortunately, it isn’t always seen that way.
Sharing insights across work groups improves morale
You know what happens though, when the work silos occur, don’t you? People begin to feel invisible and unappreciated. Lacking direct involvement with each other or other managers and leaders, valuable insights are lost.
In her book Mindsets, author Carol Dweck gives us many examples of how leaders can foster an encouraging, inclusive and growth minded culture. Instead of believing insights are only possible from the top down, she cites the example of GE CEO Jack Welch. “Welch never stopped visiting the factories and hearing from the workers. These were the people he respected, learned from, and in turn, nurtured”.
Are you a leader? Most of us are, in one capacity or another, whether at work, at home or in the community. What kind of leader would you like to be? Are you confident enough to hear what others around you have to say, even when it may not be what you want to hear?
To fully benefit and grow your respective area of responsibility, your best bet is to adopt an attitude of continued learning. Open yourself to hear the thoughts and knowledge of others. By doing so, not only will the bottom line improve, so will your employee engagement and your leadership capacity.