Ask. Listen. Learn. Repeat.
It really just boils down to this sometimes, doesn’t it? As leaders, I think we tend to overcomplicate things every once in a while. Parts of leadership aren’t really that complicated. Employee engagement doesn’t always have to be tantamount to figuring out the DaVinci Code or be the inspiration for an overrated teen punk-rocker’s lame music.
Some of you already know this, but I recently accepted a new position as Chief Culture Officer for an organization. In this role, I have the privilege of leading the charge in the areas of HR, training & development, organizational culture, employee engagement, and so on. I’m super excited about it, and am already starting to dig in and learn more about my new organization’s identity, culture, and brand. I love this process of exploration–of getting the pulse of employees and organizations. I feel like Dr. House sometimes, trying to piece together an organization’s story based on what I hear, see, even feel. I love my work, and right now my work involves a whole lot of asking, listening, and learning.
From time to time in the past, I’ve taken a few knocks for spending what some perceive to be too much time with the other humans in the organization. Frankly, I get it–there’s this thing that tugs at us occasionally, telling us we should be sitting at a desk somewhere working on projects or spreadsheets; and believe me–I know there’s a time and place for that. I just look at it a little differently.
To really know and understand the folks you have the privilege of working with, and to really be able to create a compelling context within which those folks can grow, excel, become loyal employees, and propel the organization forward, you’ve got to connect with them. Ask them questions. Listen to what they say. Watch them in action. Learn–about them as individuals, about the organization, and maybe even (gasp) about yourself. I’ll take it a step further and say it’s our responsibility as leaders to know the folks we’re privileged to lead. And I don’t just mean know their names, titles, and job responsibilities. I mean really know them. Know what makes them tick. Know what makes them come alive. Know what sucks the life out of them. (Hopefully it’s not you.)
But there’s not really a magic formula for that. It’s actually pretty simple a lot of times. Ask. Listen. Learn. Repeat.