I often tell executives that the most valuable time an employee has in their company is the first 90 days. It is in these first days that an employee discovers everything in your organization. Remember the first day of high school or college? This is a similar feeling an employee has when coming into your company. After that, they become normalized into the prevailing climate and they stop questioning why certain things are done the way they are. The next most valuable group in your company are the front-line people. They typically have an accurate view of the reality of what is happing with your customers and suppliers.
Executives and managers often see the bigger picture at 50,000 feet, but the success details of execution and implementation are on the front lines. These front-line employees know more than their managers about how to fix things, solve problems, opportunities and how, when and where your customer buys your product or service.
Many leaders do not have a systematic way of gathering this information or getting the reality of what it means to the higher levels of the organization. This means you could potentially make some very bad decisions and assumptions. If you are not receptive to honest, bottom-up feedback, it could mean you are operating in a vacuum. The challenge for you is to accept this bottom-up feedback as the reality of what is happening in your company. This information, communication, ideas, and solutions are very valuable and worthwhile. You, as the leader, do not have all the answers, nor do you have the ability to make decisions without some current intel around what is happening on the front lines.
So, one of the most productive behaviors you can display is to encourage, reward and support in whatever way communicates value to your employees so they bring you ideas, feedback, and opinions. It can sometimes be hard to accept the data you receive, but you are far better off knowing than not knowing what the prevailing thoughts and feeling are on the front lines of your company. Think back to the time when you first started, before you were in charge of anything, where you were a front-line worker. Didn’t you have some ideas or input you thought was valuable and you wanted to share with someone to make the organization better? How did you feel if you were ignored?
Learn to trust, respect and listen to your employees by encouraging them to participate in conversations or in a survey in which they can share this valuable feedback. Then, you must make the commitment to listen to what they said and think it over thoroughly. Lastly, you want to respond in a way to let them know you listened, you heard and then share with them your thoughts on the subjects they brought up to you.
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