Leaders try all kinds of strategies to show their employees they matter. These efforts frequently consist of well-meaning but superficial attempts to demonstrate how much the organization really cares. Things like:
- The company picnic.
- Employee of the month (including photo on wall).
- Mention in the newsletter.
- Bonus of some kind.
- Giveaway of some kind.
- Group email extolling some accomplishment.
These types of efforts yield short-term morale boosting results for the person being recognized. What they overlook is building morale by celebrating the unique talents and abilities of everyone and doing it on a deeper level.
So how can leaders show employees they matter? It’s a revolutionary process called listening to them. It works like this:
- Set up a time with the employee where you can talk with no interruptions and both of you are relaxed.
- Ask the employee how he or she is doing. Also ask what’s going well in their job and what they would improve. Ask them for their ideas on how to improve things. Make sure to ask only open-ended questions, the kind that don’t result in a yes or no.
- Listen to him or her without interrupting, getting defensive, opining, giving advice, fixing anything or reacting negatively.
- Repeat the process at a time convenient for both of you.
This practical approach will help you show your employees they matter in less time and with far greater meaning than any recognition program. The reason for this is that people like for their bosses to show an interest in them as well as value their input and wisdom. They like to be recognized on a personal level and feel like they’re important. Listening also builds rapport and trust on an individual level.
So much of the way many organizations run is squeezing the most performance possible out of everyone and then throwing them one or two a recognition crumbs. Empathic leaders understand that connecting with their employees directly and compassionately creates a happier, more effective workplace. It also helps leaders because they gain insights and perpspectives they might not otherwise if they hadn’t listened.
Listening is a powerful tool to validate your employees and show them they matter. Try this approach sometime and make it a habit. You’ll learn things about your employees and organization that will help you lead better and get more done. It also gives you a remarkable opportunity to take action to build a more highly functioning and happier workplace.
An important added benefit: Your employees will like you more. What will you do to listen to your employees and show them they really matter?