If Employees Aren’t Listening, Reflect on Leadership

Worried that people who should be listening to me, aren’t listening to me. Think about my employees, and ask myself, “If they’re not going to listen to their boss, who are they going to listen to?” How can I keep from getting pushed out of the way?

Thoughts of the Day: Take a look around you. Make time to think about what you want, and whether the habits of communicating are getting you there. Figure out how you can get better at communicating. Lower your perception of the consequences if things go wrong. Think before you speak. Plant seeds.

Is it really just you who’s being ignored, or are others having the same problem? Is it all employees, or just some? Is it the same employee over and over, or different employees at different times? Is it all the time, or just some of the time?

Figure out the conditions under which you observe that you aren’t being heard. Compare that to your observations about what others experience under similar conditions. Do a reality check on who, when, what, and how people go their own way without dialing in to you.

Then ask some questions. Are they attempting to spread their wings, trying to fly solo with new skills they’ve acquired? Are they repeating a habitual way of behaving with you – as in, they always dial you out? Or is it somewhere in between?

Now do a reality check. What happens if specific people do or don’t listen to you? Do they get better results with, or without your input? Or do they come out about the same either way? Do they get enough value from your input that they can achieve higher level outcomes? Are you making requests that make their life easier or harder? Try looking at it from the receiver’s viewpoint.

Time for a bit of self-reflection. How do you come across as a leader? Are you positively motivated, and are you positively motivating the people around you? Can you inspire confidence?

Think about this. If you’re not ready to empower yourself to achieve success, how will you impart that to others? On the other hand, if you’re leading and no one is following, why is the whole group following a different path? What is it about how you’re coming across?

Can you take as good as you dish it out? If someone isn’t listening to you, ask them why. But be prepared to hear some things that might make you uncomfortable. Listen without defense in order to learn.

What in your style of presentation is irritating people or pushing them away. It often comes down to what you say and how you say it. Is it all about getting what you want? What gets in the way of perceiving or responding to what the person across from you needs?

Negative approaches tend to generate negative responses, and vice versa for positive ones. Keep doom and gloom to a minimum – it’s neither inspiring nor motivating. Instead, search for purpose. Put people on a mission.

Give people a visual of how things might turn out. Make sure it’s one that they’d actually want to achieve. Make it something worth having, something worth reaching for, from theirs, not your, point of view. To do that, you’re actually going to have to invest some time figuring out where the other person is coming from.

Remind yourself that it takes a village to build well rounded solutions. Plant seeds. Ask for small changes. Encourage behaviors you want to see continue by saying, “thank you, I appreciate that.” Talk honestly about problems, but also build people up by showing them how changes they are making lead to a better world. Take time out to celebrate wins – more than the time spent moaning over losses – a lot more.

Looking for a good book? Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek.


Managing to Keep Key Employees

We have a couple of people who are really important to the business. We call them our key employees. It’s no joking matter – I worry about it all the time – if one of our key employees were to leave, or if something happened to them, we’d be screwed. How do I protect the business from something bad happening to these important individuals?

Thoughts of the Day: Key employees have probably earned the right to that designation over time. Keeping people engaged is essential to the well-being of the company. Protecting the business from unexpected events is part of any owner’s job. Know what your people want, where’ they’re going, and how your company fits into their overall plans. Make sure to build back-up solutions as part of a well-rounded contingency plan B.

Key employees are called that for a variety of reasons. Some have unique knowledge of the business. Others have special skills that are hard to replace. Some provide a level of support or planning that has taken a long time to figure out how to do it. Some could be very valuable to competitors.

When thinking about how to protect the company from the loss of a key employee, the first step is to insure you know who is considered to be key. There is host of reasons why people are considered essential. The list usually includes more than top executive. Think about who in your company might be seriously missed or difficult to replace if they left or couldn’t make it in for work.

Take time to reflect on each key individual. Is he fully engaged with the work he’s doing? Is she aware that the company values her contributions? Are plans in sync – yours for where you want to take the company, theirs for what they want to achieve. Do you even know what each key employee wants personally and professionally?

Many business owners, used to being in the position of command and control, make the mistake of assuming they should map out a future for each key employee. Actually, it’s a two way street, starting with a dialog about the future. Have an open and frank conversation with each key person – where do they want to be in 3-5 years, what does their life look like, what would cause them to say they were satisfied, want concerns do they have.

Listen carefully, without judgment. Try not to take control. Be open to the possibility that the person you’re talking to may want to go somewhere else for work sometime in the future.

Tune in to what motivates each individual, and what needs each has. Think about how you can use the resources of your company to help each key individual achieve what they want, as they help to get your company where you want it to go.
Be willing to think outside the box as to how you can help a key employee, but make sure it’s a fair trade.

Do they want to get additional education? Offer that, with the agreement that they’ll stick around for a period of time post-graduation, or reimburse part to the tuition if they leave sooner. Planning to have a family? Consider flexible work schedules. Many key employees work long hours and have concerns that they may not be able to spend quality time with their family. Get back-up so they can.

Consider ways to bond people to the company. Ask every key employee about why the company is important to them. It may be how your company treats its employees. It may be about the type of work or the clients served. It may be about the community they share. Look for common themes you can build on to create a culture to bond people together.

It may be possible to meet employees’ financial growth needs through profit sharing. Shares of stock may be valuable, but make sure to keep ownership internally focused by having a stock ownership agreement requires shares to be returned to the company when the employee leaves.

Make cross training a requirement for every key employee. It may take more than one employee to perform the functions of one key employee. Whatever it takes, make sure that someone can back-up every key employee up so that they can take a vacation, get sick, move on to learn something else, or even leave the company, and the company continues to function well.
Looking for a good book? Retaining Your Best Employees, by Patricia Pulliam Phillips and Jack J. Phillips.