I know a man who’s been in business all his life

I know a man who’s been in business all his life. And he still doesn’t know how to listen. Sure, he’s not bad at some other skills but listening ain’t one of them.

This guy is a good operational manager but a poor relational manager. I suspect if he doesn’t change, he’ll be out of business this year.

Another senior manager in a large organisation told me recently: “I don’t trust anyone in this business.” I find that most alarming. How is that business being managed? How’s their bottom line gong I wonder?

If I’m reading the writing on the wall correctly, the day has arrived, for business leaders to check out, get feedback, spruce up and polish the basic people skills they must have to manage today’s workforce profitably.

These are simple human skills which, for too long, have been regarded as ‘soft’ and therefore neglected. And that has been to our peril.  These are the ‘emotionally intelligent’ skills that I would expect a young person to have.

A business leader who doesn’t have a practised mix of ‘bedside manner’ and tough love will not hang on to his/her best talent for long.

I  asked a young female assistant in a store the other day: “What’s it like working here?”

Her reply wasn’t what I was expecting: “My feet hurt”, she said quietly.

“Huh?” was my intelligent reply.

“They won’t let me wear comfortable shoes. I’ve been here two years and I’m leaving.”

I  discovered that the poor girl had tried a number of times to improve her foot comfort by talking with her manager but she met a brick wall each time. Now her departure is going to cost the Company a lot of money replacing her.

So exactly where have we been neglectful? What do we need to do differently to and grow our bottom line?

I think most managers have a reasonable understanding of the sorts of things employees want.  But if you put all your employees needs into into one basket and shake it, one fundamental need will fall out: “Do you really care about me?”

I have a bag full of sorry stories that won’t make you smile. Stories like the one above, across the country, are costing our businesses approximately three and a half billion a year. (About the same amount the Government hopes to accrue by increasing our goods and services tax!)

Now, just to make sure you get my point I’ve assembled a cluster of simple questions you might like to review over your lunchtime sandwich:

+ Do you really appreciate your employees’  contribution to your business?

+ You do? How do you show that appreciation? Are you known for it?

+ Do you give your team real opportunities to develop their potential?

+ Do you help them understand and accomplish their role?

+ Do you recognise and reward employees’ effort appropriately?

+ Do you allow them flexibility?

+ Do you give your workforce the resources they need to do a good job?

+ Do you encourage and listen to their ideas?

+ Do you take them seriously?

+ Do you give them current, positive, personal feedback on their performance?

These are some of the better things you can do to engage your teams. These kind of ‘personal skills’ will not just save you thousands but you will have the satisfaction that your workforce actually enjoy giving you their effort and will hang around for quite a while.

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