The Cornerstone of Modern Leadership? It’s When Managers Listen

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Thanksgiving may be over, but I don’t have to stop being thankful. And, contrary to what those near and dear to me would tell you, I’m thankful for quite a bit.

I’m thankful the sun rises each morning, I’m thankful for how my adult sons help me appreciate my husband (not always automatic after 20-plus years of marriage), I’m thankful for cheesy Lifetime movies, and I’m thankful for my relationship with my maker.

I’m also thankful that not everyone sees the world exactly as I do, because that would be boring and just wrong.

Bosses who listen? Shut up!

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with David Niu, CEO and Founder of TINYpulse, which helps organizations collect anonymous feedback from employees. China Gorman’s article about TINYpulse’s employee engagement report appeared on TLNT a couple of weeks ago.

David sees the world, and particularly the world of work, much differently than I do. And I have to give his view credence, because it’s yielded a useful product and a successful business.

TINYpulse is built around the idea that employers want to know what workers think.

I’m astounded by this idea.

See no evil, hear no evil

I asked David, “Who are these leaders? ‘Cause I haven’t met them.”

Listen, am I saying I’ve yet to lay eyes on the manager who considers employee input something to be sought and not avoided? No.

But I used to work for an organization that honest-to-God solicited employee comments on an engagement survey by first admonishing “Please, no negative comments,” so that tells you a little bit about my frame of reference. Very “See No Evil, Hear No Evil ” kind of stuff.

A new class of leader?

David answered my question by stating that he believes a brand new class of leaders is on the rise, the kind that values give and take.

That response prompted my next question — what is causing this movement, exactly?

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David had a couple of theories about that as well:

  • Millennials in management. Millennials are well known for their high interest in regular feedback. A tool like TINYpulse fits right in with their needs.
  • Competition for tough talent. High-performing organizations stay on top by engaging top employees. What engages employees? For one, the ability to make an impact on the business with their ideas.

David told me that if leaders take care of employees, employees will take care of customers, and customers will take care of the company.

You don’t have to convince me.

Employees really like it when managers listen

A 2012 survey by talent management solution DDI revealed that one-third of employees don’t think the boss is doing an effective job, while nearly half think they could do the job better than the boss. And fine, we know there are some woefully misguided folks in that latter bunch.

What bugged employees about managers the most? Bosses who don’t listen. Some 35 percent of employees agreed that the boss “never, or only sometimes, listens to their work-related concerns.”

So, despite my skepticism, I do appreciate what the team at TINYpulse is doing in providing a tool for those leaders who want — and are committed to acting on — employee feedback.

Only time will tell what’ll happen to the rest.

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, is an HR consultant and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She also writes at her blog, HR BlogVOCATE. For the past 15 years, Crystal has focused on building HR departments in small- to mid-sized companies under the philosophy that "HR is not for wimps." She is also the CEO and Founder of Work It Out! and partners with HRCVision, a full-service HR consultant practice specializing in leadership and diversity training. Contact her at crs036@aim.com.

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