Inside out

Talk to your people

Before you can expect your employees to
march to a steady beat, you have to make
sure that you yourself are clear about what
your company needs to do. You need an
effective means of communicating that message to your people.

“You really need to understand what
makes the business work and have a sense
of realism as to what you can accomplish,”
O’Connor says. “I know those are easy
things to say, but you can’t do that from your
office. You have to get out and meet the people, and you have to have an exchange with
the people out there to understand the business that you are trying to deal with.”

Keep in mind that communication happens all the time, whether you are stopping
by someone’s cube or they are reading your
body language. Everything you say and do
conveys a message to employees who are
watching you for clues on how they are supposed to act.

One of the ways you can help employees
feel more comfortable approaching you is to
try reversing the most common interpretation
of the corporate world’s open-door policy.

“Our managers’ doors are always open,
not for employees to come in but rather for
managers to go out the door and visit with
their people and their customers,” O’Connor
says. “Leaders need to use a variety of communication tools.”

By staying in touch with your company,
you gain a better understanding about what
is working well and what areas are in need
of improvement.

“We’re trying to listen to what is happening
out there,” O’Connor says. “Are there
dynamics that are changing out there that
we need to be aware of? While that sounds
pretty broad and pretty difficult to get your
arms around, what drives the cost of the
business? Obviously, you can’t compete
unless you control costs.”

When you come across an aspect of the
organization that needs to be addressed,
start asking questions. Dig below the superficial and get at the heart of the matter
affecting a particular issue.

“I gathered up my team and I said, ‘Look,
how do we feel about the cost structure
related to our service delivery? Do we feel
like we really understand it?’ When I say
understand it, I mean, if you can’t definitively tell me that our routes are efficient, then
we really don’t know if we’re efficient. We
need to go out and become better routers.
We may find out at the end of that endeavor
that the routes were efficient. But there is a
knowledge base you have to have.”

The point is that when you communicate
with your employees on a regular basis and
demonstrate that you want to hear what
they have to say, you build trust.

“We can talk about the right people, but
the reason the company has been able to
attract good people and retain good people
is because of our core values and our
integrity,” O’Connor says. “It develops trust
if they believe the organization has a high
degree of integrity. That gives people peace
of mind that they know where they are at
and they know what to expect.”

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