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One Tough Pressure

Who cares what your employees have to say?

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Who cares what your employees have to say?

by Chuck Violand

Theodore Roosevelt once described Americans who were loath to question their government or to criticize their president as "unpatriotic, servile, and morally treasonable" — a strong indictment for people who just want to sit back and enjoy the fruits of liberty.

He was right. And, the same thing can be said for business.

In an article from the January 2004 issue of Harvard Business Review, author and psychoanalyst Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries states, "To be effective, organizations need people with a healthy disrespect for the boss — people…who can engage in active give-and-take."

Therein lies the rub.

Are you listening?

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t welcome "active give-and-take" with their employees. And, they certainly don’t entertain "disrespect". In fact, most chains of command in small businesses have a closer resemblance to obedience charts than they do to organizational charts.

All too often when an employee, even a senior manager, approaches the boss with a suggestion or an opposing point of view, the boss digs in his heals, straightens up his back while he shuts down his mind, and says, "Go ahead. I’m listening."

But, are we really listening? Are we really open to new ideas or opposing viewpoints from the people who work for us? Or is saying, "My door is always open" just boss-speak for "Fuggedaboudit!"

When this is the case, people learn to stop bringing suggestions to you. They figure they’ll stay employed longer if they just keep their mouths shut and do what the boss says.

This is tragic because it isolates the boss from the things he needs to see and hear about his business.

Open the lines of communication

Here are some ideas on how to foster an environment where your people feel free to openly express their opinions with you.

  • Start by realizing that you probably have no clue how you come across to your people. You think you’re "Mr. Open Minded" with your people, while they may think you never listen to them.
    You think you’re being soft and compassionate, while your people may view you as hard-edged and disinterested in their ideas.
  • Next, ask someone other than an employee how you come across to your people.
    Most employees will tell you what you want to hear.
    Former employees will tell you what you should have been hearing.
    Trusted advisors (spouses, consultants, etc.) will tell you what you need to hear.
    Seek the opinion of someone who is not on your payroll.
  • And finally… buckle up. There’s a good chance that what you’re about to hear about yourself will send you on a wild emotional ride. That’s all right. You’ll get over it. And, you’ll be a better business leader when you do.

Obviously, not every employee is built to walk into your office and tell you exactly what he or she thinks about you. Some are simply too passive.

But, good business leaders learn to welcome (or at least tolerate) the opinions of employees who will.

Chuck Violand owns Violand Management Consultants, which helps owners of service companies with business planning, sales building and leadership development. He also teaches and hosts a business workshop.

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A good book to add to your business education collection is called VERBAL JUDO.

Personally it has helped me comunicate better with customers and i was able to up my sales.It also helped with the comunication with girlfriend and co workers.

The book sounds like a self help dr phil type thing but its not.Its author is involved intensley with law enforcement milatery and businessman alike.


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Here is an intresting, but short, article Alan found somewhere a while back.

I'm really more interested in the book nlater in the thread. Has anybody read Verbal Judo or taken the training? If you have speak up, was it worthwhile?

Equiring minds...

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communications 101,,

I believe my success is based on listening to others and making ideas better.

I have and old office mang that was great, we are still using her organization to this day. I'm glad i listen to better ways and still have meetings.

last night we had our monthly crew meeting, went well 1 hour 15 minutes.

We accomplished alot. towards the end i asked if theres anything we could do better to up production.

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