Managing a company means keeping your eyes and ears open at all times. You must continually seek out ways the organization can run more productively, cut down on costs, and engage your talented workforce. This means thinking outside the box and maintaining an open line of communication at all times. With so many items on your to-do list, it is easy to fall behind when it comes to workplace dialogue. You let your employees know that your door is always open and continue on, assuming they will come to you with whatever they need. Successful leaders, however, recognize the importance of leading by example, consistently maintaining that line of communication.
A recent study by management researchers Kathleen Ryan and Daniel Oestreich revealed that "70% of 260 people from a variety of industries and job types hesitated to speak up about problems at work or suggest possible improvements to their firm because they feared repercussions.” Similarly, Cornell Management Professor James Detert “found only 51% of employees in a Fortune 100 multinational said they felt safe speaking up most of the time.” Since your employees work on the frontline day in and day out, this silence stands to hinder the entire team, impacting the workplace environment and productivity, often leaving great ideas unborn. The greatest of leaders are those that recognize they do not have all the answers, allowing every team member to have a voice. Maintaining a steady flow of dialogue begins with you. You can start by answering these 5 questions, providing your talented workforce honest feedback regarding where they are going and where they have been.
1) "Do I make a positive contribution to the culture and environment of the company?”
Manager’s discourse: Company culture and environment has a direct impact on its success and it only takes one person to bring the entire ship down. Communicate with each team member regarding their contribution to the culture, both positive and negative. Sharing specific examples of both, as well as your thoughts on ways to improve, will provide your employees a roadmap for future success.
2) "How valuable are my specific talents to this company and our team?”
Manager’s discourse: Identify your team member’s talents and how said talent contributes to the overall picture. Open up the dialogue further by asking the employee what his/her main talents are. They may possess skills you have not tapped into yet that could be beneficial in reaching future business goals.
3) "Do you see me playing a long-term role in this company?"
Manager’s discourse: It is critical you express the company’s long and short-term goals and the employee’s role in that vision. If you do not see a team member fitting in long-term, it is important to share this information as well. Be sure, however, to explain why - it may be that you see their talents outgrowing the company, or vice versa. Either way, this is an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with your employee and provide them insight into both their direction and that of the company.
4) "What are my weaknesses and how do they affect the company?"
Manager’s discourse: Hopefully you have already addressed the employee’s strengths, now it is time to address his/her shortcomings. No one is immune; we all have things we need to work on. Sharing these weaknesses and helping your team mates identify ways to improve is a critical aspect of leading your company to success. Just remember, it is not about what you say but rather how you say it—be sure you communicate constructively and help your employees come up with solutions on ways to improve.
5) “As long as I get my work done, is it ok to work remotely?"
Manager’s discourse: The traditional office space is a distant memory, with employees working from home, coffee shops, and on the road. Hopefully, you hired your team members because you trust in both their talent and work ethic, so why not allow them a little workplace flexibility? Feeling a little uneasy about this? Why not allow the employee to work remotely part-time, tracking their results? You may be surprised at the end result.
Your management role requires you to be in the loop regarding every aspect of the company. The organization’s success hinges on your ability to extract relevant information from your employees, ensuring this information reaches key decision-makers. The most direct path to this success is through communication, honesty, and compassion. By answering these critical questions, you prove your commitment to each individual’s success, as well as the company as a whole. You back the statement “my door is always open” and ensure your employees feel comfortable walking through that door.