Listen up

Like most people, Lizabeth
Ardisana works in a building with office walls.

It’s an unfortunate thing for
her because the co-founder,
principal owner and CEO of
ASG Renaissance LLC wants
to understand what her 250 employees are doing and what
they think about the organization, but the walls can cut
down on her face time with
employees. To counter that,
she walks around to communicate her message and to get
feedback from everyone at the
professional services firm,
which posted $25 million in
2007 revenue.

“You have to be able to listen
to feedback, both positive and
negative feedback,” she says.

Smart Business spoke with
Ardisana about how she got
over taking feedback personally and how to get employees to
tell you what they really think.

Q. How do you create a
culture where employees
feel comfortable giving
you honest feedback?

You have to create trust. It
doesn’t happen overnight.
Depending on what people’s
previous experiences have
been, it can be difficult to do.
But, people have to see that
it’s OK.

The data can be negative.
Their feedback can be negative. But it’s not personal. It’s
all about, ‘How do we make
this thing better?’

The very first way you do
that is take personal responsibility. The truth is, anything
that is not going right in my
company is my responsibility. I
bear part of that no matter
what the situation is.

Sometimes, I’m probably
99 percent the problem, and
sometimes, I’m 5 percent the
problem. But, I always have
some responsibility for it. I
think that you create that sort
of environment by taking
responsibility and sharing that

Q. How do you get people to
share information with you?

When you’re looking at a situation, it should be all about
the data. I started years ago
doing these surveys, asking
people what they liked and
what they didn’t like and what
issues they had. You hoped
that everybody will just actually feel comfortable
discussing that with
you, but sometimes,
they’re not.

But you’d be surprised, like when you
do a little survey, all this
stuff comes up on the
survey. The very first
time I did that, I was
annoyed. Like, ‘What
are they talking about?
What is that?’

I do a lot of marketing
work, and we do a lot
of market research. I
said to myself, ‘Well,
wait a second. This isn’t
negative feedback. This
is just like market
research. Do you like
chrome or black?’ It’s
that kind of thing.

Nobody gets personal
about that. Nobody says, ‘Oh
my God, they didn’t like
chrome; I’m dead.’ So, if you
think about this as market
research, then all feedback is
good. But you have to sort of
put yourself into that mind-set that every bit of feedback
is good.