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By Daniel Bobinski
Dan Bobinski
In my last column, I outlined three things employees can do to impress their bosses. This month, I turn the tables and address a few things those in authority can do to impress their employees.
Before I get too far, a clarification is probably in order. After all, I’ve met some bosses who think impressing their employees means flaunting their status or wealth. That’s not the kind of impressing I’m talking about.
What I mean here is making an impression on employees so they know they are valued and respected. This kind of impressing results in a workforce that increases its commitment and productivity.
Think about it. If employees are an asset to the company (and they are), it only makes sense that the investor (the employer) creates the optimal conditions for the best possible return on investment. After all, that’s how one is supposed to treat assets.
Granted, every workplace is different, but human beings are universally impressed when they get treated in certain ways. Here are three ways bosses can impress their employees.
Hearing is one thing, listening is another. By definition, hearing is simply the act of perceiving a sound by ear. As long as your ears are functioning as designed, you can hear. It doesn’t even require conscious thought. If you’re close enough to something that causes a noise, you hear it.
Listening is different. It’s truly trying to understand another person’s point of view, and it requires an active, conscious choice. To listen, you must have a purpose in your heart and apply mental effort. If it helps, think of listening as a goal or a mini-project: Information must be collected and considered!
Why? Because people want to be heard. They want to be understood. People have ideas, and what they want is for those ideas to be considered. Agreement on every little thing that comes your way is not necessary (nor recommended), but taking the time to genuinely consider ideas will strengthen relationships as well as employee commitment.
Now it may seem kind of obvious, but genuine listening takes time. Unfortunately, that’s one reason some people don’t do it well. Over the years I’ve seen many people in authority shoot themselves in the foot by cutting their listening time short. The following story illustrates what I’m talking about.
At an employee meeting, Tom (the boss) stood up to announce the particulars of an upcoming project. At the end of his presentation Tom asks “Any questions or concerns?” Five seconds later, Tom had heard nothing, so he said, “Good. And I hope that everyone is as excited about this project as I am.”
The problem? Tom didn’t give people time to formulate their thoughts. In Tom’s mind, he had given his people a chance to be heard, but at the end of that meeting, nobody believed that Tom cared about their opinions. As a result, both their trust in Tom and their enthusiasm for the project became severely diminished.
Not listening to ideas – or not giving people a chance to offer ideas – can turn energy into apathy. Employees are impressed and remain engaged when supervisors truly listen.
Beyond active listening, bosses impress employees by giving specific acknowledgments of employee efforts. People want to know that their work matters, and that what they do is needed and valued.
As with listening, genuineness is important here. Acknowledgments must be sincere or they have little value.
What I’m talking about goes beyond institutional reward programs. Those have their place, but tremendous power exists in offering a well-placed (and genuinely heart-felt) “thank you.” Just be sure to look your employees in the eye when thanking them. It has to come from your heart, but where people will see that is through your eyes.
When showing appreciation, keep in mind that timing is crucial. Wait too long and you diminish the value of your acknowledgment. Also, any recognition given in the wrong place (i.e., too private or too public, depending on the situation and the person) can also weaken the impact. Know your audience, and adjust accordingly. Contrary to popular belief, there is no one-size-fits-all way to do this.
As a boss, you probably want your employees to care about the quality of their work and how they represent the company. Being an advocate of your employees aligns with the principle of “Give what you want to get.” In other words, advocating is like a natural, reciprocal law. In other words, it works both ways. If employers don’t care about their employees, it doesn’t take long before the employees don’t care about the employer.
How do you be an advocate? Take an interest in your employees. Find out what employees want and help them get it. For example, when change is coming, ask employees about their concerns and then work with them to find solutions. This doesn’t mean you must personally solve all your employees’ problems. It just means you are listening and brainstorming with your employees, trying to identify ways to resolve their struggles.
Be aware, sometimes advocating for employees can take an inordinate amount of time, or even set the company back financially. However, if something is the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.
Few things are ever 100 percent certain, but when employees know their employer watches out for them, they are much more likely to remain committed, go the extra mile, and do the right thing in return.
There you have it: Listening, acknowledging contributions, and being an advocate are three things you can do to impress your employees. Treat people like the valuable assets they are, and you are more likely to generate a solid return on your investment.
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed., is the CEO of Workplace-Excellence.com, helping teams and individuals learn how to use Emotional Intelligence. He’s also a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at dan@workplace-excellence.com.