Opening up on 19 July? Five reasons to start listening

Alison Best




Opening up on 19 July? Five reasons to start listening. 

What’s your organisation’s plan after 19 July? Three days a week in the office? Total flex? Back to the 2019 model? Haven’t decided quite yet? It’ll be clearer in September?

Whatever the plan, it’s going to suit some people more than others. The tensions are predictable: the leader who wants everyone back; the colleague who prefers life without the commute; the support teams working different hours; hybrid meetings with remote joiners being overlooked; different approaches in different teams and complaints of inconsistency and unfairness… And then there’s the legal stuff. What you can legally require someone to do under a contract of employment might be very different to what it would be sensible to actually ask of them on the ground.

However you set your expectations for your employees over the coming weeks and months, a couple of things seems clear:

·       There’s no one size fits all; and
·       We’ll have to flex and evolve.

And that means listening is going to be a vital skill for leaders over this next phase. Five reasons for leaders to lean in to listening: 

1.    Ensure wellbeing: You have a duty of care to each employee. A new way of working will be challenging for many. Leaders need to check-in regularly - genuinely listening to how people are doing, offering support and being prepared to adjust things where needed.

2.    Maximise engagement: Maintaining high engagement through uncertainty means keeping your ear to the ground. Proactively creating opportunities for one-to-ones and team communication is key. Ask questions – explore possibilities – collaboratively design a new way of working together – one that feels psychologically safe for all. It’s a huge opportunity for creating a new, more inclusive, way of doing things.

3.    Develop talent: Listen to your people to find out their next stretch in the post-pandemic workplace: coaching conversations, mentoring and ongoing development. Listen to find out what people want and need from the business now to grow and reach their potential. Without this your top talent will start to look elsewhere.

4.    Evolve collectively: Listen to understand what’s working well, what might need to change, and how to change it. An exclusively top-down approach to future changes won’t work if your people aren’t with you. You damage trust and morale if you implement change without listening and consultation.

5.    Mitigate risk: Listen to spot the warning signs when things are going wrong. Build trust and connect to your people. What does people risk look like in your team?Sound like? Complaints and grievances can quickly escalate and resolution is far easier in the early stages of conflict. Walking towards the issues –getting under the skin of what’s causing concerns - requires confidence and strong listening and empathy skills.  

If you’d like to build a stronger listening culture, please get in touch or join Mark O’Grady and me on 21 July 2021 at our webinar to focus on listening. To register for the Webinar, Listening and empathy in 2021, please click here


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