November 28, 2005

Are you listening?

In my experience the path to an idea can be sparked by unusual things. For example the song "The Night Chicago Died". Hey sometimes creativity happens in strange ways.

Somehow the 70's ballad made it on to my iPod and I listened to it on the weekend. The song is about an important night in Chicago's history when Al Capone went to war with the Chicago Police. The essence is that one night changed everything. So I'm thinking that this also happens in business. One day, or one event, or one decision, or one person changes everything. Perhaps not overnight but things get very, very different.

As the owner or manager you're not likely to discern the critical difference in environment or attitude....but your people will. When I coach my clients about initiating a program or change I'm careful to have them commit to listening to their staff. Not as a one time thing but as a frequent somewhat structured approach.

The impact of not listening is: staff turnover, reduced quality of work, lower productivity and loss of customer satisfaction. So what can you do to listen for the change and make corrections? Here are 4 ways:

1. Meet with a cross section of employees from different jobs once per month. Ask for feedback and ideas. Follow up on each thought, idea and suggestion with the group;
2. Unchain yourself from your desk. Walk around the business and strike up conversations with people for an hour a day. This will give you perspectives on issues/opportunities that you would not hear about otherwise;
3. Get everyone to socialize. Once a month have a Friday afternoon "beer and pizza", "wine and cheese" with everyone in your business/team/branch/location. This will raise collaboration to a whole new higher level;

4. Buy an iPod....it's already generated me lots of great ideas!!!

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