Open mind and open ears

Charlie Schuette works witha diverse network of people, and as a result, he’s learnedto be open and flexible in dealing with people from differentbackgrounds.

The chairman of CoconutGrove Bank says it’s not something that happens overnight; ittakes time to learn to deal withdifferences and to not imposeyour own beliefs and ideas onpeople. And the key to learning,he says, is listening.

“You just have to listen andnot try to impose your viewsbut get different inputs,”Schuette says. “Sometimes,they’re right — quite often,they’re right.”

Schuette has focused on listening to his 125 employees atthe bank to help bring newideas in and keep it growing to2007 revenue of $43.5 million.

Smart Business spoke withSchuette about how listening toyour employees and being opento their ideas and values canhelp you develop trusting relationships.

Be an active listener. Listening toemployees. You can figure outwhat their values are, what’simportant to them in their life— whether it be working, family, whatever it is — and justtry to bring that out of themand enhance that in the work-place and try to make themfeel like whatever it is theyhave a high value in that itworks for the company.

A successful leader is a people person. He or she must besincerely interested in theemployees’ goals in life, theirfamily and their families’ activities outside of the businessenvironment.

If you hear something that isnegative or [that you] disagreewith, [if you] interrupt the person, they just shut up and don’tsay anything and you lose thewhole value of being a listener.

The benefit’s going to be agood employee, an employeewho looks forward to comingto work. … They enjoy theirjob; they will have the tendency to be more open and frankwith you when they have aproblem or find an issue theyfeel should be addressed. Theyfeel comfortable approachingtop management to discuss it,realizing that they aren’t goingto immediately be criticized orany sort of retaliation.

Don’t interrupt. Just keep yourmouth shut and listen. Themost important thing is if youdisagree, [don’t] interrupt theindividual, just sit there and listen through the whole process.

If you start to dominate theconversation, start imposingyour own views, more thanlikely, that particular employeeisn’t going to give you anymore information. They justdon’t want to be humiliated orcriticized in that manner.

Interrupting the thoughtprocess of the individualspeaking may jeopardize a full,in-depth discussion of the subject and, therefore, the abilityof the leader to weigh the prosand cons of a plan as expressedby those who may have a different view. Interrupting anindividual will more than likelysend the signal that the leaderis just not interested or is setin their ways as a dictator andnot a listening leader.

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