I was very proud I had kept an empty can of stain from the last year – so I could exactly match the brand and color. I handed the empty can to the associate who immediately said, “How long ago did you purchase this, sir?” I responded, “Last June, (11 months ago) when we moved.” He laughed. “The reason I asked is our bar code printer is still making this error today. I can match your color another way, but it’s just very frustrating that management doesn’t listen and act on our opinions and suggestions. We could make so many improvements in the business.” This 20-something associate nailed it – everyone wants their opinion to count!
When we don’t ask for, listen to, and/or use others’ opinions we can easily send some extremely negative perceptions including:
- I don’t care!
- I’m not interested!
- I have more important things to work on!
- I know better!
- I am not going to change!
- I am not open to differences of opinion!
Now, consider what ineffectiveness and inefficiency the perceptions above would have on major organizational initiatives including: Innovation, Inclusion, Lean, Engagement, and Change.
We assume leaders would never intentionally create these perceptions. But wait – do their actions truly reinforce their ‘good intentions’ or negative perceptions? Consider the following examples. In your organization, what specific actions are leaders accountable for and expected to successfully complete:
- Responding to formal employee suggestion program ideas? Are there disciplines to review and get back to the individual in a specific amount of time or do ideas simply accumulate and formal feedback is minimal?
- Selecting diverse staff for special projects? Or do they pick the same ‘favorites’ who reinforce what they already want to do?
- Letting employees make some of the decisions in change initiatives to increase buy-in and transfer ownership?
- Feeding employees’ perceptions and ideas ‘up the line’ – respectfully but candidly sharing concerns even when it may be critical of decisions made or pending?
- Following up on employee questions? Or do they simply redirect staff to websites, 1-800 numbers, HR professionals, or union reps to express their concerns or opinions.
- Harnessing the creative energies and insights of employees by routinely conducting informal brainstorming sessions with staff focused on continuous improvement?
- Executing two or three specific actions to address concerns expressed in any formal employee opinion survey?
When employees do not feel their voices are heard – opinions valued – or ideas are thoughtfully considered they can become disinterested, distracted, disconnected, and disengaged. Everyone has an opinion – just like the paint associate last Saturday. How and what leaders genuinely do with these opinions will impact organizational and individual performance. It really does count!