3 Strategies To Help You Listen to Your Employees

StrategyDriven Managing Your People Article |Listen to your Employees|3 Strategies To Help You Listen to Your EmployeesYou must learn to get the balance right as a leader. When you are so determined to protect your business, this could be to the detriment of the people that matter, your employees. Many employees talk about wanting their voices to be heard, the fact is that they want someone to listen to them. Employees demand feedback, but they want support too. And this means that leaders have to be more aware of individual needs. What does it take to learn how to listen to your employees?

Be Mindful

Advisors like Paul Ognibene provide a treasure trove of information on being a great leader. But a great leader is not just someone who knows how to be in charge, they are someone who is very aware of their surroundings. This means that if you are not able to acknowledge the situation based on body language and other forms of non-verbal communication, you have to work hard on developing this intuition. Learning to be engaged in a conversation is not just about listening, it’s about understanding what you need to do to be present. We’ve all had conversations with people who are not actually in the room, despite being physically in front of you. And as a leader, everybody is keeping their eye on every move you make. If you ever appear disconnected, this will be to your detriment.

Learning to Engage

Learning to listen is not just about listening to what they have to say, but it’s about asking them to elaborate and encourage them to expand upon what they mean. If you start to engage yourself in a more active way like this, you will start to follow up with your employees. This gives them a signal that they know you are listening and paying attention, and it gives you the opportunity to check in with reality. It’s a habit that is so important, but asking questions could be a very simple way for you to remind yourself to engage. But it’s about making sure that you ask questions that encourage employees to elaborate.

Never Judge

You may think that you are someone who keeps your mouth shut until it’s time for you to speak. One of the grave mistakes leaders make is that they think that everything they say is important. The best leaders are those who make their followers feel that everyone is the same, including the boss. And if you judge others, not only are you making harsh criticisms about something different, exposing yourself as immature, but you are not listening. And if you are unable to embrace new approaches and merely judge what other people say, you will never adapt to change.

Remember, it’s about developing the skill. You may feel that external stresses are getting to, which hinders your ability to listen. But this is where you have to learn to take a step back. Running a business is not easy, and any external pressure can knock you off-kilter in an emotional sense. But if your employees feel that you’re not listening to them, this is a one-way ticket to low morale.

What is the most powerful behavior in the leader’s toolbox?

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article |Leadership Behavior|What is the most powerful behavior in the leader’s toolbox?Why is it that some people who appear ready, willing and apparently able for promotion into positions of leadership either fail outright, woefully underperform, or at the very least never come close to reaching full potential? I’ve seen individuals from diverse industries and cultures who are extremely proficient as individual contributors, for example, get promoted to lead small teams and, despite great promise, simply fail to deliver. It’s much more common than one would imagine. Why is this the case?

In my experience, study and research of the topic over the past thirty-five years, one common theme emerges – many of these leaders do not lead with care and compassion. This is not to say that these leaders as individuals are uncaring. However, their focus, attention and energy are weighted too heavily in other areas of the business and not in developing relationships with their employees. For example, I’ve seen leaders struggle because they spend inordinate amounts of time focusing on results rather than their vitally important role in achieving those results.

The goal for every organization is, of course, mission accomplishment. While there are many roads to get there, leaders who have good working relationships with their employees get there with less drama, staff turnover, lower cost in labor and material, among other metrics, compared with leaders who lack these relationships. [1] Higher trust translates into higher performing team. In other words, the fastest, most efficient path to mission accomplishment is through trust.

How does a leader earn trust? Leaders, researchers and thought leaders generally agree that there are three essential behaviors. The first is technical competence. People are more likely to trust a leader whom they believe has the technical know-how and experience to make good decisions. The second is consistency. A leader must do what they say they will do, follow through on commitments and keep their promises. The last behavior is care and compassion. The leader needs to build relationships with their team members and show that they care for their well-being. Competency, consistency and caring – all three are important behaviors in earning trust. However, of the three, showing care and compassion is the most powerful and fastest way to earn trust.

In fact, leading with care and compassion is extremely powerful. I’ve seen people successfully lead teams where the leader was not technically proficient in the area of work. For example, I’ve seen Navy non-commissioned officers whose expertise was aircraft maintenance successfully lead medical teams. While these leaders were certainly not rendering care to patients – they weren’t proficient in that area – they were rendering care to the relationships they had with their Sailors. They understood the importance of building those relationships and focused their time and attention accordingly. These leaders excelled at listening to their Sailor’s concerns, showing empathy and ensuring that every single Sailor was able to feel engaged, fulfilled, supported, and recognized. In the end, they were leaders who people not only wanted to follow, but loved to follow.

My choice of the word ‘love’ is a deliberate one, and an accurate one. Fascinating research has recently shown that when a team member feels care and compassion from their leader, profound changes occur at the neurotransmitter level within the team member’s body. In fact, their level of oxytocin increases significantly. Oxytocin is a molecule also known as the “love hormone” – its release from the brain is triggered by social bonding. Oxytocin levels increase when two people hug, for example. Researchers have shown that when leaders lead with care and compassion through positive social interactions, oxytocin levels increase among team members, along with engagement, joy, and overall performance.[2] When people say they love working for their leader, they literally do love working for their leader.

When followers trust their leader, the path to mission accomplishment is much easier to traverse. The most powerful behavior in the leader’s toolbox to earn that trust is care and compassion. Show your people that you care for their well-being and they’ll consistently deliver.

[1] Michael Burchell and Jennifer Robin, The Great Workplace, (San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass, 2011)
[2] Paul Zak, Trust Factor, (New York: American Management Association, 2017)

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Mark BroukerMark E. Brouker, Captain, United States Navy (retired), Pharm.D., MBA, FACHE, BCPS, is founder of Brouker Leadership Solutions, and author of the forthcoming book Lessons From The Navy: How To Earn Trust, Lead Teams, And Achieve Organizational Excellence. For more information visit

Six ways to be a better business leader

No matter what industry you work in, becoming a better leader in your area will be the career goal, many people aspire to fulfill. Some skills that many of the best figureheads have can be learned, or just come naturally to them. Either way, you can use them as examples of how you can improve your own performance.

Some of these top leadership skills can be very subtle yet hugely effective – but performing them in just the wrong way can have a negative effect on how people see you in the workplace. However, analyzing some of these behaviors (a few of which are listed here) will help you on your way to becoming the business leader you want to become.

Communicate effectively

The most successful business leaders will most likely be master communicators. The key to becoming a better leader will realize how to put your ideas across effectively – and persuade and inspire others. It is also essential to be able to listen keep an open mind when it comes to receiving feedback, for instance, so you can gain valuable insights.

Keep learning

Make sure your own knowledge does not become old and outdated, as this can affect both your professional development and your brand. Business is evolving at an astonishing rate, so you need to know about the latest techniques and trends.

That includes finding out more about the economy, your industry, and competitors, plus your own team. You should also work on the skills related to your role’s responsibilities and may consider enrolling in further education or taking a management course.

Take responsibility

A characteristic you should not have is to blame others when something bad happens. Accepting your role in your team’s actions – and the consequences – will help you get respect and trust. This means you will create a culture where you learn from mistakes and improve.

You can also take responsibility by ensuring errors don’t occur: you could check your company’s IT system is secure by working with brands such as INFINIT Consulting, Inc. This will help identify potential issues before they arise by using a managed IT service.

Be positive

Transformational leaders will have an optimistic attitude that is inspirational for followers: otherwise, team members may become uninspired if a leader seems apathetic or discouraged. You should also try to stay positive even when things look bad. That does not mean you should see things using rose-tinted glasses, but instead maintain that feeling of optimism even with challenges ahead.

Encourage creativity

Teams should be encouraged to use their creativity. As an effective leader, offer new challenges with the support they need to achieve these objectives. These goals should be within the abilities of your team – so they can stretch their limits but are not discouraged by barriers to success.

Be a role model

You should show the qualities that you want to encourage within your team. If you do, then these group members will admire you and will work on mirroring such behaviors themselves. Using idealized influence is also one of the main components of transformational leadership.

Every Business Faces An Existential Leadership Crisis

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article |Leadership|Every Business Faces An Existential Leadership CrisisStop for a second. Think about the last time you saw a CEO do an interview. When was the last time you saw a business out in the open, showing off it’s latest and greatest talent? When was the last time you saw a business that showcased its raw young talent at a business exhibition or conference? Most likely, not a whole lot. The general public doesn’t often get to see the young people that a business is hiring. They may not have earned the right to be represented the business out in public. The company may not even care about its image in that way. It’s clear that most businesses have a tough time passing the torch to the next generation and doing so in an open and honest way. But that also means, most businesses are facing an existential leadership threat. If your business cannot be gifted to the next generation, it won’t survive more than one lifetime. How can you stop this from happening?

Internal culture protection

The reason why Apple didn’t collapse when Steve Jobs passed away, is because they had an internal business culture that groomed the next in line. Tim Cook took over and approached the challenges of the business to be innovative and build on the Apple ecosystem, just like Jobs would have wanted. This did not happen by mistake. Cook was able to approach the future in a similar way because the entire business, protected its internal culture. It’s the way you want employees to think about their roles, their tasks, designs, marketing, social media, etc. A culture encapsulates everything about you. So one way to make sure your business has a future is by protecting your culture and helping the best employees to understand it on a deeper level.

A skills transition

Becoming a leader isn’t for everybody. In fact, it’s true that most people just don’t fit the profile. But how do you know who does and who doesn’t? Putting your employees through leadership training is the best way to find out. They will learn a plethora of skills including, knowing what employee strengths are and getting the best out of them. Effectively influencing employees to make them channel their abilities better when it comes to tasks and roles in group projects. Being able to effectively lead meetings of staff, talking to people both personally and professionally. Navigating conflict and having the skills to resolve problems when they arise. Managing your time as the leader among other things will be taught to your chosen prospective employees.

Choose high potential employees

Every successful leader has some level of intuition. They can just spot someone out of a crowd and see they have more potential than the rest. If you see an employee you believe could be a leader, then look past their role and their rank. If it’s someone on a lower level in your business, then give them a chance to prove themselves. You never know when your diamond in the rough might appear.

For businesses wanting to carry on their excellence from generation to generation, it’s vital you protect your company culture internally.