The most successful business leaders share an insatiable desire to learn. One of the greatest challenges of being a leader in any industry is having the humility (and good sense) to glean valuable lessons from unexpected sources.
The very best leaders know, regardless of their own elevated position within a company, their employees can be indispensable resources for knowledge.
There's only one problem: Entry- or mid-level employees may be too intimidated to voice their true concerns to the boss (that's you!). Being in touch with your staff is definitely key to being a great leader. Additionally, according to leadership expert, General Thomas Kolditz, "..leaders should be servants to their followers."
You can foster a more inclusive environment that encourages them to share their thoughts. Here are five important things that your employees may not be saying to you:
1. Please trust me to do my job
As a leader, you are responsible--directly and indirectly--for the work your team produces. This pressure makes it tempting to micro-manage. Constantly looking over your employees' shoulders indicates that you don't trust them.
Employees who feel trusted in their work are more satisfied and perform better in their jobs, so this is a potentially damaging message to send.
Our best leaders strike a balance between firm management and allocation of responsibility, creating an environment of open communication and collaboration.
In turn, the best employees will exceed your expectations, teaching you to trust in their abilities. So get off your employees' backs--you may be generously rewarded.
2. I don't feel that my opinions are valued
There is overwhelming evidence pointing to the importance of fostering an environment of intellectual diversity and inclusion in the workplace--it makes us better problem solvers and even drives economic growth, according to the Center for American Progress.
For this reason, it's paramount that employees feel empowered to voice new and unique insights into the company and its operations.
During meetings, keep a log of every employee's idea, and provide positive reinforcement even if you're skeptical; remember, there's no such thing as a bad idea when you're brainstorming.
Fostering a welcoming environment will encouraging a spirit of collaboration, making employees more likely to participate and share their opinions in the future.
3. You're unapproachable
In the same vein, ruling from the ivory tower will do little to encourage employer-employee rapport.
The most effective managers are always looking to improve their leadership skills, and there is no better way to do so than by maintaining open channels of communication with the employees they manage.
Host a monthly lunch with employees at every level within the company, giving them a casual, inviting platform to voice their thoughts.
Being receptive to feedback and encouraging constructive criticism may open your eyes to internal issues or areas for improvement that weren't even on your radar.
And who knows: A great idea for boosting your business' revenue may just come from an entry-level assistant.
4. Our workplace culture makes me uncomfortable
A business is only as strong as its company culture, and ultimately, it's up to managers to help foster a positive workplace environment. According to workplace culture expert Robert Richman, "Today's most successful companies have made a radical realization about their relationships with their employees."
Although it's admittedly easy to be removed from the day-to-day interactions and relationships of team members, that makes it all the more important to proactively engage with and demonstrate your committed involvement to your community.
Organize regular social outings, which give you and your employees a chance to build rapport beyond your work projects. Doing so can teach you a lot about what's working well at your company, and where there remains room for improvement.
Once you've targeted the weaknesses of your company's culture, address them. Whether by creating a diversity council or launching an initiative to address gender bias in the boardroom, these efforts will demonstrate that you truly care about making your workplace a more comfortable place for every employee.
5. I felt alienated during the onboarding process
Inefficiencies in the hiring and onboarding processes not only cost your organization a lot of time and money, they also inhibit a new employee's ability to adapt to the new position and do their job well.
Soliciting feedback shouldn't be reserved for the exit interview alone--after all, by that point it's too late to repair the employer-employee relationship.
Whether in the form of a survey or informal interview, institute a standard process for collecting feedback in the early months of an employee's tenure.
By encouraging recent hires to share their thoughts, you can identify ways to improve the process, leading to a more streamlined integration and happier, more productive workers.