Have you ever looked at a company and everything looked great? I mean really great, where you might even be admiring how green their grass is.

I've consulted quite a few companies around the world with very green looking grass. Everything looks great from the outside, however once you start looking under rocks and see what's going on behind the scenes, there is often a very different picture when you actually talk to the people.

I'm often brought in to train teams on how to be more efficient in how they work. We look at how they can apply agile, a methodology often used in software development but can be applied to any work environment, to help teams deliver to market sooner while working in a more collaborative way.

I've even been brought onsite to provide an agile assessment for companies that were transitioning from a traditional project management approach to using agile. On the morning of the first day on a recent engagement, one of the employees drew out on a white board everything they thought were the current challenges and what they thought needed to be done to enhance how the teams were working.

After several days of assessments, meeting with several teams, meeting with the executives, and observing the business, at the end of the week, would you believe that my conclusions aligned with what the employee had articulated on the first day?

You might wonder why leaders don't listen to their people more.

Listening is Key

If you were to just listen, employees often really know what was going on. They know where delays are. They see roadblocks and inefficiencies that cost the company money. They often have ideas on what to do to improve the way they work.

They see all of this because they're on the ground floor. They are close to development or production. They may even have innovative ideas, but may be disheartened because they felt like no one would listen so they might not do anything more than the bare minimum in their job description.

Imagine having people that are engaged that feel valued and listened to. Imagine how much more ownership they would feel over their work.

Listening Leads to Empowerment, Which Leads to Results

When people feel ownership, quality goes up, productivity goes up. Continuous improvement begins to emerge. These are often results that we see when companies begin using agile as an approach to how they work. Because while using agile, there is a mechanism built into the approach for identifying roadblocks, reflecting on what's not working, and engaging stakeholders when impacts to a project are known. These are all things that lead to improvement.

When people feel listened to, they speak up more. Communication is enhanced. People feel valued and that their opinion matters. 

Think about how much companies could benefit by just listening to their people. You know, the people doing the work.