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Humbled, a CEO learns to listen better

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Soon after John Heer joined North Mississippi Health Services as CEO in 2004, he decided to improve how his leadership team managed their employees.

He sought to boost morale and create a more team-oriented environment.

Heer and his managers worked with a consultant to evaluate their leadership skills. They evaluated each other on qualities such as honesty, integrity, humility and focus on results.

After sharing the results of their evaluations among the group, each leader developed a plan to improve in areas with the lowest scores. For example, an executive who needed to improve his focus discussed with his peers the strategies he’d take to sharpen his concentration and time management.

In Heer’s case, his lowest rating was for listening. As a result, he began keeping “a listening log.” He’d distribute the log to employees after a meeting, asking them to grade his listening.

For six months, he collected and analyzed hundreds of completed logs.

“The process of asking for feedback and sharing my problem was embarrassing,” Heer admits. “But it was also very liberating.”

Word spread within the company about Heer’s commitment to self-improvement. He found that employees were more willing to follow his lead by acknowledging and addressing their weaknesses.

Today, 750 employees have undergone the same evaluation process. Like Heer, those with poor results in certain areas embark on a six-month improvement plan.

The program has produced strong results. Measures of both employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction soared, and the company’s financial performance also improved.

— Adapted from “How to Become A Servant Leader,”

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