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  • Writer's pictureTangelo Media

The Value of Valuing People

Younger employees get feedback at work


Have you ever wondered why things aren't working at your company? Why are we not crushing our goals? We work really hard, we are committed, and we have smart people, and yet something isn't right. It's probably our lack of tech integration, or maybe we need more productivity tools, or we need to spend more time on training—we should have some more meetings to discuss how to transform our business. 


Does this sound familiar?  Recently, I reread an article in the Harvard Business Review called Leaders Focus Too Much on Changing Policies and Not Enough on Changing Minds by Tony Schwartz. The article was written six years ago, but the message still resonates with me. One of the theories as to why transformation is so hard is something that the psychologists Lisa Lahey and Robert Kegan have termed "immunity to change." So, what does that mean? Well, in my experience, it boils down to the fact that most leaders get stuck in their ways and don't necessarily challenge themselves to think differently. And they don't realize that the human element of a company is the most critical factor in whether a business exceeds expectations or not. 


I now have my own business, but before that, I was in sales and marketing management for many years and was often one of the few or only women in the management team. One thing that always stuck out to me was how many leaders took their employees for granted. They spent much of their time worrying about processes and procedures and crunching numbers. Still, they never thought about the people that are doing the actual work. It was too touchy-feely to worry about people's emotions. They knew very little about their team because they never got candid feedback or spent one-on-one time with team members. Most of the senior leaders I worked with expended little effort in taking the pulse of their people that worked for and with them. Now, that doesn't just apply to male leadership, but I think that attitude tends to be more prevalent with men than women. 


I would often chuckle to myself when leaders talked about their teams as if they knew them so well. More often than not, I knew many of their team members personally, and they would confide in me. The employees' impression of their manager was usually very different from what the manager thought. Of course, I couldn't tell them that because I would have been betraying their confidence. But I often thought, "How can leaders be so out of touch?"


And yet, even with that attitude, many of those leaders are incredibly successful. However, this mentality does not work well with the present workforce, which has a younger generation of employees. If you are unaware of what your employees feel when you are in the same office with them every day, imagine how unaware you probably are if everyone is working from home. And while previous generations might just deal with it because people tended to stick around for much longer with the same organization, that isn't even remotely the case today. Younger workers have many options and will leave a job as soon as they feel unappreciated. In fact, “43% leave a job because they feel undervalued or unrecognized for their contributions. Younger employees want frequent feedback and appreciation from managers.” And even when a company is successful despite high turnover and job dissatisfaction, think about how much more successful that same organization could be if people felt valued and appreciated and their opinions mattered.


One of the best ways to connect with your team is simply by talking to them. Ask them questions, get their input, and don't get upset when they finally tell you the truth. It might take a while to earn their trust, but you will learn a lot if you take the time to truly listen. Management by Wandering Around, or MBWA, is a practice that works, and the founders of HP famously used this approach. It requires a range of skills, including observation, active listening, recognition, and feedback. And you have to be prepared to act on the insight. If you listen to what people say but don't act on it, then there’s no point in bothering. 

Even better, try doing the job of one of your employees for a day to experience first-hand what it's like to be in their shoes. I read about a waste management firm's CEO who sometimes goes out with his staff to collect trash. He probably learns much more about his business from a day when he gets his hands dirty than when he sits at his desk behind a computer.


The crucial thing to remember is that until AI takes over and we are all replaced by robots, we need people. And they need to feel valued. It seems like that should be obvious, but despite their rhetoric, most organizations don’t manage their human resources as effectively as they should. The mindset change has to start with the leadership team, and the transformation can’t take place until every leader, from the CEO on down, takes the message seriously.


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