Why You Need to Talk With Employees

A leader needs to keep in touch with customers because a business’ real value is realized on the outside. 

But it’s just as important to keep in touch with employees.  Get out of your office, talk to people individually and in groups, find out what’s working, what’s not working, what’s getting in their way of being as effective and productive as they’d like to be. 

Only by doing this will you hear things that otherwise would not make it to your office.  You’ll hear good ideas and key trends to give you a better understanding than relying solely on internal reporting.  Quality issues and improvement ideas, workplace problems and suggestions, and even hints of harassment can be surfaced this way.  Consider your employee contact as part of an early warning system.

It’s also an opportunity for you to reinforce your leadership messaging.  You can answer questions, provide background for decisions, and ask people what they are doing that day to act on key priorities.

Build employee contact into your weekly schedule.

What they may not be telling you

You need to make sure that the information you receive is not filtered. That can be more difficult than it seems.

You have to make sure that your people understand that you want candid and straight information about your business. Such information is vital to you knowing your business and making good decisions.

The worst example of this is Jeff Immelt’s strong dislike for bad news at General Electric. He insisted on only hearing good news, what insiders named “Success Theater,” where overly optimistic projections did not match the realities of the business. Because of this, Immelt did not fully understand his own business and continued to tell the board and analysts that the company was strong and ready for growth. As a result, GE is in serious trouble. The company may be broken-up and the entire board could be fired. Immelt has already lost his job.

What do you need to do to make sure that you are getting clear and unvarnished information about all salient parts of your business?