It’s Time to Listen More to Your Employees!

It’s Time to Listen More to Your Employees!

Some of the most successful people I know listen more than they talk. We need leaders who focus on building the organizations they run, not their own egos.

Now is the time to sit up and listen. Not to me, but to your teams.

Much of 2020 and 2021 were spent coping with new demands of remote work while negotiating the multitude of disruptions resulting from the pandemic. And this year, even as we inch our way back to business as we knew it, redefining norms for a hybrid future requires us to answer questions that often cannot be resolved on our own. In fact, leaders should not be making these decisions unilaterally.

No room for narcissism 

We need leaders who focus on building the organizations they run, not their own egos. 

Putting the team first clears the path for everyone to focus on achieving common goals. This clarity is important when you want to be open to perspectives other than your own to approach a challenge from all angles. Recognizing the value that team members bring to the table, be it from their individual job roles or their unique experiences, is a trait that is often overlooked.

Change is the only constant, and it is taking place at breakneck speed. The success of a new digital transformation strategy or entry into a new market hinges on how well change is managed in all dimensions. Coping with change and uncertainty calls for leaders to listen closely. How else will leaders keep a finger on the pulse of the business? 

While leaders are tasked to lead an organisation into the next stages of its growth, top down management is a thing of the past.

Leaders need to listen to ensure all opinions and views are considered and especially during times of change. Furthermore, team members are more willing to follow and invest time in a plan if they feel they have played a part in shaping it. 

Practise inclusion to capture all aspects of a problem

Many companies are at various stages of digital transformation. For instance, 36% of organisations anticipate their data and performance analytics moving to hybrid or multi-cloud infrastructures when only 12% of organisations currently do so. When we think about what makes digital transformation successful, one of the top factors is having both senior managers and people engaged in key roles being involved in developing initiatives than during past change efforts, as well as ensuring collaboration between units on transformation initiatives. 

Inclusion is an indispensable component to the mix when we think about harnessing diversity within the team. Aside from language and cultural differences, team members could have varying interpretations of the same issue and resolve them differently. Staying attuned to the team’s concerns avoids the pitfall of prematurely dismissing any deep-seated problems that threaten a project’s success. 

Empathy is underestimated

Empathy is another essential leadership skill and many of my peers will agree with me on this. A study by Catalyst has in fact quantified the impact of empathy. Employees who reported that their senior leadership was empathetic reported nearly 5 times higher levels of innovation than those with less empathetic leaders. The connection between empathy and innovation is that both involve stepping out of your own bubble to improve the status quo, even when you are not a direct beneficiary of that change. Improving the customer experience is one such example that many organisations will be familiar with. 

The same study also found that employees were more likely to stay in their companies and report that their workplaces were inclusive when the organisation’s leaders were empathetic.Think about what that translates to in terms of progress and growth in your organisation. 

Empathy fosters employee engagement

It goes without saying that empathy should be authentic and leaders’ actions should match their words to keep employees engaged.

76% of people who experienced empathy from their leaders reported they were engaged compared with only 32% who experienced less empathy. The truth is, people only participate and contribute when they are engaged, and they do so with the intention to initiate improvements for the organisation. Recognise that when team members put forth suggestions, it is a sign that they are invested in the company’s future and still see themselves as part of it. Shutting employees down is a surefire way to wear down their motivation at the workplace.

Listen to empower your team

Inclusion forms the bedrock of a healthy organisational culture where employees can thrive, and are unafraid to experiment with newer, better ways of working. At the core of this is a unit that is able to take a step back to listen to each other and tap on their collective team strengths to derive benefits for all. 

As a foreigner who has worked in Asia for almost 14 years ago, I learned that it is very important to listen more than you speak. There are so many nuances here that you can never take the smallest detail for granted. It’s not just the cultural differences or ways of doing business but also the different interpretations of logic. Because of all these factors, it is really important to be respectful, patient and empathetic. 

Managers who spend time listening to their teams deserve our appreciation. Empower your teams and listen to what they have to say. Invite them to step up and share the responsibility for the task at hand. You might learn a thing or two that could lead to your next breakthrough. 

Read more about the culture at Cloudera here

Mark Micallef
VP, Asia Pacific & Japan
More by this author

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Links are not permitted in comments.