As the owner of your business have you ever felt left out of the loop? Or been blindsided by an employee quitting with no notice? Have you ever lost business from someone you thought was a great happy customer?
Most often there are warning signs long before these events happen. The problem is we are often so busy that we are not paying attention carefully enough with our ears to have noticed. Listening, like any human function is a complex process between your ears and your brain and is something you can strengthen.
Listening is a powerful leadership tool that will give you the information you need to make great decisions. It will also provide you with the information you need to strengthen your relationships with your customers, your team and yourself.
Listen to your customers
Customers give us all kinds of clues of what they want, shorter lines, hotter coffee, faster response time. Listen to the feedback, grumbles or praises offered by your customers to build trust and craft a better customer experience. Great companies listen to their customers and bit by bit make changes for greater efficiency, better communication, and improved service. I experienced this last week when I arrived at the Boise airport looking for the shuttle that would take me to my hotel. I was blown away when I received a text from the hotel driver saying “Hey Beverlee, I’m here by the green sign, take your time” AND he spelled my name right. That small gesture made me grin from ear to ear, made me feel welcome in town AND create a relationship with a hotel that will last forever. I learned later the owner of the hotel built his entire business on listening carefully to the needs of his guests and created detailed systems to ensure their comfort. What are your customers wanting and needing from you? Ask them.
Listen to your team
You didn’t hire ignorant people so why not take advantage of the knowledge and insight your team members bring to the organization. When creating systems, the very best understanding into the way to do things is from the people that are doing them every day.
If things are not working it is your people who will find work arounds, improvements or short cuts to something better. Ask them for their input on what you need to do to make your business stronger. Have a place to post “missing or broken systems”, it tells them you are listening AND you will get the benefit of a healthier company.
The depth and breadth of insight from your own team is a resource often ignored by busy small business owners. The best teams collaborate and have robust communications systems for information, ideas and thoughts to share up and down the ladder. This can be done with a daily huddle, weekly meetings, or even something as basic as a shared ideas book.
Recently on our own team we needed to change our communication systems to ensure response time between us improved. People were not being heard and this can quickly take the wind out of a teams sails.
Listen even if you don’t agree, it won’t hurt you to listen, in fact it will help a lot. Remember “acknowledgement is not agreement”. Sometimes we get so stuck in our ways trying to build and systematize our companies we forget that we have other insights we can tap into. Listen and learn, be the leader that listens and build a strong team!
Listen to your gut
Your body will tell you to stop right in the middle of telling a little white lie that has slipped out when you were trying really hard to make that sale. It is that same twinge that tells you that it is a really bad idea to hire your best friend to do your books. In fact, your gut is probably the best indicator at any hiring interview you do .
Your gut feeling is also the source of positive inspiration and desire that can drive you to reach your goals; to finish, to push harder than you ever thought possible to get to a place that others dared to go. Slow down and listen to your own instincts when it comes to running this company. You’ve got this, listen and learn.
Until next time, enjoy your Entrepreneurial Journey!