If you’re going to lead, you must listen. No excuses. No exceptions.
Some managers naturally focus on tasks and projects. Yet, the best leaders focus on the needs of the people they serve. Always.
Although some team members may be subordinates, they are also partners. And they need to know – without a doubt – that they have absolute freedom to contribute their unique perspective to the organization. Even when it differs from yours.
And their perspective will be different than yours – regularly. So if you are going to influence people, you must slow down and listen – long enough to understand and consider their perspective.
Most employees think their boss is deaf to their recommendations, their observations, and their pleas for more resources. And few managers realize that their team feels this way.
Here are 4 reasons team members think their manager isn’t listening…
1. They aren’t supported
A few years ago, I was confronted by several frustrated team members.
When we sat down, one of them told me that if they made a mistake I would occasionally “throw them under the bus”.
I had no idea that I was doing this – because it conflicted with everything I believe about developing people.
He told me – “I need to know you have my back.”
It’s not enough to say you will – to believe you should. You must do it.
Support, encourage, and resource your team. Privately. Publicly. Often.
2. They aren’t valued
Talented people and their ideas are an organization’s greatest assets. So we hire top-quality people. In fact, we’ve hired people from some of the top companies in our region.
But even talented people struggle with insecurity. They wonder if they have what it takes – if their boss and their team members believe in them.
So great leaders regularly seek input and feedback from them. And this simple practice communicates to team members that they are valued.
3. They aren’t trained and resourced
There will be times when a team member shows uncertainty or lacks proficiency in some aspect of their job. When that happens, don’t write them off. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t react.
Instead, ask: What training and resources can I provide that will help this team member grow – in this project, in their role, in their career?
4. They don’t know what’s expected
When I first began working with companies and non-profits around the country, I was shocked at the number of organizations and teams that have not clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Many have no position descriptions – and those that do, have not clearly defined the outcomes that are expected.
Every position should have a job description and a position guide that details core functions, responsibilities, outcomes, requirements, training, resources, and procedures for the role. Then, these items should be regularly communicated and evaluated.
Bonus: The one question you should teach your team members to ask
I can’t tell you how many times there’s been miscommunication between me and a team member. In fast-moving teams and organizations it happens all the time.
I intend to communicate – “Hey, good job this time. Next time let’s improve this aspect of the project.”
They hear – “You didn’t perform at an acceptable level. You won’t last long here.”
Maybe your workplace relationships and conversations are similar. I’ve learned that there’s no way to avoid these miscommunications. Believe me – I’ve tried.
It’s because we each bring history, experience, baggage, perspective into our interactions with others. So the miscommunication is inevitable – it’s going to happen.
And when it happens – there’s a simple solution to clarifying the intended message. Teach your team members to ask you – “Am I in trouble?”
This one exercise gives you the opportunity to reassure them their job isn’t in jeopardy. That you’re simply giving them feedback so they can improve next time.
And, if they are in trouble, it provides an opportunity for them to improve – before it’s too late.
It’s often painful to hear what team members have to say about you and your leadership. But there is no growth without pain. And there is no leadership without growth.
Support them. Listen. Train. Resource. Communicate what’s expected.[reminder]What have you learned from feedback from your team?[/reminder]