1st Level Listening

“How’s everybody doing today?” The leader asks as she keeps walking toward her office. The employees give the usual response “good” and everyone keeps moving right along.

Sound familiar?

This has been the norm in the workplace. However, that is changing because employees want more engagement with their leaders and co-workers. An article by the Business Journal reviewed a recent gallup survey that highlighted managers account for at least 70% variance in employee engagement.

As a leader, you no longer can settle for the status quo in your communication style and expect high employee engagement in return. In fact, you can change it anytime that you want simply by (1) being accessible, (2) responding in a timely way to requests and (3) asking questions that engage the whole person of the employee.  Of course, asking the question is only a part of the equation. The real work comes when you listen to the answers.

Listening Well and Profitability

You may not see questions and engagement as a profitability practice but let me reassure you that it certainly is. As David Hassell writes in the Huffington Post, “asking good questions gives you the power to solicit quality employee feedback, spark innovation, avoid fire-drills and help employees show-up as their best selves.”

Employees who feel engaged by you become more productive (according to the HBR, reporting up to 22% higher productivity) and loyal to you and your organization with turnover rates being reduced by anywhere from 25% – 65%!

…asking the question is only a part of the equation. The real work comes when you listen to the answers.

This means that you can change the culture of your company just by changing the way that you interact with your team. Teams go as leaders go. Your attitude is reflected in their attitudes.

Great leaders create impactful teams, and they touch not just the business world but the individual lives of those around them. This type of impact does not happen accidentally. It is a deliberate choice and way of being.

Which questions are best?

Perhaps you are wondering what questions to ask to get a different or better response from your employees.

Asking questions is a skill that can be learned. Once you ask the question get quiet and listen. Storycorp, a national storytelling project, shares that listening is an act of love.  You don’t have to post “I love you” signs around your office to show your team that you care. A more meaningful way to communicate this message is to: ask and then listen.

When your team knows that you want to hear what they have to say they will open up and tell you what’s really on their minds. You may be surprised to find that they want your success as much or more than you want theirs.

Not sure how to start? Here are a few questions that will inspire deeper engagement:

  • “How clear are you on what success looks like for this project?”
  • “Where do you need clearer expectations around priorities and deliverables?”
  • “What’s important to you about this project?”
  • “What’s missing or standing in the way of you completing this project?”
  • “How can I be a better leader for you?”
  • “How can I help you become better at what you do?”
  • “Is there anything that you would like me to know about how the company is doing?”

Questions inspire connection and they change how people respond to you as a leader. Your openness and vulnerability create an invitation for your team to be present and engaged. These deeper connections are important if you want to achieve greater effectiveness as a leader and one who not only expects your team to support you, it shows that you are willing to support them.

What impact could you have today with one well-asked question?

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