Sensitivity to your employees’ perspectives helps improve productivity. It lets you know what’s working and what’s not, and it lets employees know you care about the difference.
Here are three keys to seeing your workers’ jobs the way they do—and to helping them like what they see:
1. Strengthen communication. Let workers know you’re willing to be flexible. Ask if you’re giving instructions clearly and providing sufficient feedback. Tell employees you’re willing to consider other techniques. Keep alert for statements from workers that begin, “Maybe we could ...” or “What do you think about ...”.
2. Accept criticism gracefully. The most elegant way to do it is simply to admit you’re wrong, then determine how best to proceed. However, this approach works only when you’re truly wrong. If you’re not, find out what’s really bothering the employee. If she’s angry, agree with whatever points she’s making that you support. Wait until she’s calmed down to ask clarifying questions. Listening carefully to criticism will not only dazzle people with your maturity, but also let you take advantage of the good ideas that defensiveness and denial would obscure.
3. Analyze how employees respond to what you say and do. Take time to notice when you’re really in sync with workers—and when they’re tuning you out. Look for ways to expand successful approaches into weaker areas. If you are really good at giving clear instructions, for example, try using the same clarity when telling a marginal worker the consequences of continued.
Being open to your employees’ points of view can require that you set aside your pride in your own ideas.