We often discuss the importance of listening to clients. We spend considerable time and money at conferences and webinars learning effective listening skills. We talk a lot about the need to concentrate on what a client is saying, without worrying about replying, and then repeat back what the client said.
We know this is important. After all, we are paid to listen to our clients, and once we learn to listen to our clients we realize this important skill makes our job easier. But how well do you listen to your employees?
Several years ago, I was working at a small accounting firm when the automatic feed feature on my desktop printer went out. The printer would still work, provided each piece of paper was manually fed into it, one at a time. As you can imagine, this was a very time consuming process. When I mentioned the problem to my manager, he asked whether or not the printer could be made to work at all and then said he did not want to spend the money to replace it. So, I spent the next tax season manually feeding each piece of paper that I printed into that printer. This slow process not only drove my morale to the gutter, it also cost the company the price of a new printer every two weeks in lost productivity!
I learned a few things from the experience. First, I learned my manager was not a good listener. When I explained the printer problem he heard only a request to spend a few hundred dollars; he did not hear the way the company’s productivity was being affected. I also learned how important it is to listen to input from employees, even if you will be giving them very little control over the final decision.
Shortly after that tax season of slow printing, I started my own firm. I have made it a practice to try to listen when employees come to me about an issue. An employee will rarely take the initiative to come to a manager over something trivial. I also take the initiative to check with each employee from time to time to see what input he or she can offer. Does he or she have everything needed to do the job effectively? Is the office equipment working correctly? What one thing can I do to make their job better?
This approach accomplishes several things. The employee has an opportunity to be heard, and I am enriched by their viewpoint and ideas. Of course, I can’t approve every expenditure, but simply knowing their thoughts and that I am willing to consider the ROI improves the relationship. Additionally, when I listen to the employees, they listen to me. It really is a win, win situation.
So, are you listening?
Andrea J. Smith is president of Andrea J. Smith & Associates, Inc.,
(www.fortcollinsaccounting.com) an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Northern Colorado. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality. She is on Twitter: @FortCollinsAcct