Did you know only one in four employees feel that their opinions count at work?

When leaders don’t listen to their employees, their teams face the consequences. According to a poll of 675 workers, 64% of respondents agreed that “leaders making decisions without seeking input” was their biggest problem at work. Another poll found that 38% of employees felt a lack of initiative when leaders dismissed their ideas — making poor listening by leaders a clear threat to team engagement.

So, how can leaders ensure their team feels that their input has value?

Listening Posts
Gallup suggests leaders set up internal “listening posts” to account for their blind spots in the decision-making process. Listening posts can come in the form of quick pulse surveys asking for input on company decisions or other internal processes.

However, the occasional survey is not enough. Follow these steps to ensure your listening posts have purpose:

1. Before presenting a listening post to your team, meditate on its purpose and the implications of having one to begin with. 

Ask yourself, Are you ready for the truth? Remember, the whole point of a listening post is to gain insight on issues you may have been blind to. Some feedback may come as a surprise. It may even feel personal. But, more often than not, when you present a listening post to your team as a genuine effort to make better decisions that involve all team members, the responses will be constructive—not a personal attack on your leadership skills.

2. Use the data you already have.

Before implementing a listening post, consult information you or your company already have on file — such as exit interviews, employee surveys, and performance data. Does this information already tell a story? If so, the information can help inform the questions you ask.

3. Communicate survey results and what you plan to do with them.

Asking for your team’s opinion and then doing nothing with it is perhaps more harmful than never asking in the first place, as it essentially doubles down on dismissing their input. Before starting a conversation, make a concrete plan on what to do with the result — a plan you’ll feel confident presenting to your team.

4. Don’t rely solely on surveys. Have conversations.

While surveys can provide valuable hard data, they cannot replace real conversations. Active listening is a crucial leadership skill, and it can be the difference-maker when it comes to engaging employees and gaining perspective on issues you may have overlooked.

What active listening really looks like
In a Harvard study on the importance of listening, undergraduate students were paired up to talk for ten minutes about a proposal. When a student was paired with a good listener, they reported feeling less anxious and more self-aware compared to those paired with a distracted listener. They also reported having more clarity about their attitudes on the topics and a bigger desire to share their ideas with others.

Let’s apply these findings to a work setting. When a leader shows a genuine interest in an employee’s ideas, that employee feels more comfortable — excited even — to share. The result? A culture of ownership, initiative, and innovation.

But achieving these benefits requires more than just listening; it requires implementation. If an employee’s ideas are only heard, then they may feel good in the moment, but that good feeling goes away when they realize their boss isn’t going to do anything with those ideas. If an employee’s ideas are implemented, it develops a sense of buy-in or equity in the company — which does wonders for engagement.

Of course, as a leader, it’s your job to use discretion when choosing which ideas to use. Don’t implement ideas just to make your employees feel good; trust that, if an idea isn’t usable at the time, your team will generate more ideas that are.

If your team is struggling with communication dynamics or poor listening skills, let’s chat about how I can help. Schedule a free discovery call here.

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