The fourth blog on our series of how to implement a Behavioural Based Safety System is about the need to listen to your employees and use the process to improve communication in the organisation. Many managers are often stuck on ‘transmit’ and expect their people to continuously listen to them as they spout on about the importance of the latest corporate initiative. Managers also often expect their people to actually read the latest circular or memo… the chances are, they won’t. So how do we engage staff? Well, we listen to THEM and that takes leadership…
Get to know your people, know what’s important to them and what’s happening in their lives. Without being like their doctor or therapist, you really do need to know what’s happening in their lives. Take a healthy interest in their activities such as where a person likes to go on holiday, know that their dog has died and what hobbies they or their kids have. These external influences will be driving their performances anyway. You’ll be amazed at the diversity of interests your people have outside work… YOU probably aren’t their central point of interest, surprising, eh?…
Provide clear direction…don’t expect your people to be clairvoyant. Make your expectations perfectly clear so they know what they are supposed to do. Don’t TELL them when you want something done by, ask THEM when they can deliver it and talk the delivery schedule through with them. You need their commitment – if your people say they can’t do something in the your expected time frame there’s probably a good reason for it, so LISTEN and resource the project accordingly. If you make every task a priority, people will know that you have no priorities.
Trust your people to get on and do it – that’s it, TRUST them until such time as the person proves themselves to be unworthy of trust. When managers don’t trust people to do their jobs, the lack of trust plays out in a number of negative ways that affect the business.
Avoid constantly checking up on your people and telling them how to manage every little detail. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you’d react if your boss constantly watched you or admonished you for every shortcoming. Perhaps your boss does treat you that way, but that’s no excuse for you to do the same. Listen and help people feel that their opinions are valued. ‘Listening’ is a critical management skill and when people feel listened to, they feel respected. You will then get much more information to help you implement your BBS or project.
When you do make final decisions, ask your people for their feedback. Don’t assume you are infallible and that they’re the stupid ones. Avoid creating roadblocks that teach people quickly that their ideas are always subject to ‘presidential’ veto and then wonder later on why no one has any more suggestions for improvement. Enabling people to make decisions about their work is true leadership. If you fail to react to the problems that do arise on the journey then those issues will soon fester if they’re ignored. Managers have a habit of hoping that an uncomfortable issue or disagreement will just go away on its own. It really won’t.
The best communication is transparent communication. Sure, some information is company confidential and you may have been asked to keep certain information under wraps for awhile, but aside from these rare occasions, share what you know.When you DO ask people for their ideas and improvement suggestions, and if you fail to implement their suggestions, DO let them know why.
Finally when things do go wrong, really think hard about where the blame lies. Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t simply blame your people. The responsibility is ultimately yours so LEAD and protect your people. When you blame people it’s you that will become disrespected and then they’ll be working against you, not WITH you. That will not only derail your project it’ll push up your costs, and that’s a subject for another day!