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Management By Listening

Photo via Flickr by Leonard John Matthews

Your entire job as a manager is to listen. Your entire job.

The reason you listen is to find out what is really going on, sufficiently that you can repeat it back as if you were expressing those very same sentiments.

The purpose of listening is not to solve problems other people can solve. 

The purpose of listening is not to do therapy. 

It's not a schmooze-fest.

Managers listen to improve productivity. Where are people wasting time, or duplicating effort? Why are they working that way, when there is another way so much easier? 

Why are they taking those assignments, when they're outside of scope?

What is happening at all those theater-stadium meetings, that take up so much of everyone's time?

Who is feeling frustrated, disempowered, blocked from doing what you're paying them to do?

What are the interpersonal conflicts?

People, and relationships, are not a small thing at work. They are huge.

You listen to improve the quality of relationships on the team.

You listen to monitor and improve employee satisfaction.

Listening is a big job. You cannot rely on what limited sources tell you. You cannot rely on email. You cannot rely on the people who make you feel most comfortable.

Yes, it is true that your job has other components. Decision-making. Trend-scanning. Strategy-setting. Project work. Administrivia.

But your job as a manager has only one key performance indicator: the quantity and quality of your listening skills.

Which you then reflect back to staff, colleagues, boss, and customers inside and outside the enterprise.

And leverage for exponentially better results than anyone ever thought possible.

Which, in the big picture, is what your job is all about.

* All opinions my own.

5 Reasons Your Change Communication Plan Sucks

Photo by filedump via Flickr

1) You're Perceived As Out-Of-Touch.

Most people aren't executives, yet executives are the one doing the change communication. That's why, other than the CEO, mostly non-executives should be doing the explaining. The change team should be working privately to coordinate what gets said and how.

2) You Tolerate Infighting & Turf Wars Among The Executive Team

The older you get, the higher on the career ladder, the more mature, right? Wrong! No way! Completely no way! It is really eye-opening how people earning in the six figures and more tend to act like six-year-olds fighting over the last scoop of ice cream. What's funny, and sad, is that they think other people don't see it. Believe me, they see it. And when executives are not unified, the message is not unified, and the staff ignores all of it.

3) You Ask For Opinions When It's Too Late To Change Anything, Or You Don't Really Care What People Think In The First Place

Once you're about to deploy a change effort, you don't really want anyone's opinion, right? Because you're not going to change anything. So don't ask. 

I remember once passing by an office where an executive was crafting an e-mail to employees. The email ended, "If you have any questions or want to share feedback, contact X." The executive was laughing out loud about what would happen to those responsive emails - nothing. 

4) You Can't Tolerate Passionate Critics

Guess what people? It's 2014...not everyone agrees with you! And they may work for you, or not work for you. Those people are often influencers. Sometimes they have a certain bias against you from the very start, but that doesn't have to get in the way. A great article on this is "How to Get an MBA from Eminem," by James Altucher (hat tip to the staff member who shared it with me).

5) You Don't Listen To The Experts

Aren't you paying people to help you with change, organizational development, human capital, and internal communications? You're paying them a lot of money, right? So why do you hire them, and then overrule everything they say? Believe it or not - they actually went to school to learn this stuff. And there are volumes of books, articles, and case studies that apply to your situation. Trust your staff.

Change is a natural part of life, nobody likes change, and we all have to learn to flow with it. But getting out of your own way is the first step to getting it right. 

* All opinions my own.

Workplace Bullying Is A Form Of Domestic Violence, Counsel Victims Accordingly

Photo by Corey Seeman via Flickr

The Workplace Bullying Institute has a wealth of resources online for anyone interested in studying the phenomenon of workplace bullying, or advocating on behalf of victims.

And we need to advocate for them. Because people who are currently in the process of being bullied at work are suffering on so many levels, it's not realistic to ask them to fight back right then and there.

Just like when someone is getting beat up at home, you don't tell them to put up their dukes while they are still in the same home as the abuser. And under their control.

WBI notes that there are three parallels between workplace bullying and domestic violence:

1. The motive is control and domination, and nothing else. It's not about work, it's not about love. It is about treating a human being like a plaything, a thing. Dehumanization.

2. Surrounding parties tend to stay away from the situation, especially if they don't personally see anything that can be directly and exactly classified as abuse. Not my business, they can handle it, she or he couldn't possibly do that or allow themselves to be treated that way.

3. The surrounding institutions (workplace, police) avoid responsibility if they can. They say there's nothing we can do, it's up to the victim to report it, etc.

Workplace bullying exacts a devastating toll on people. I've been bullied at work, and it killed my self esteem for a long time. It was horrible. But like most things in life, it's a very complicated animal and simply "going after" the perpetrator doesn't get you anywhere. Unless they did something absolutely visible and insane, the system will most likely cover for them; it will not advocate for you.

And while we're talking about this, let's blow up that stereotype that abusers are men, and victims are women; either gender can play either role.

I do think we should get the bullies out of the workplace, just like they shouldn't be at home. But the most important thing is that the victims of these sadists survive -- professionally and personally -- long enough to fight back later on.

* All opinions my own.