Safety Leader

Communicate, Collaborate and Listen

Management August 2020

Employees are no longer satisfied with having a job that pays well and provides benefits. Gone are the days of the command-and-control management style. Workers want to be appreciated, challenged and feel included in the process rather than just an employee number. They want be engaged in the business as a valued partner.

The key question we should ask is do we know how to engage our employees? To effectively mobilize workers, we must learn to collaborate, communicate and actively listen.

How do we create an environment that promotes and values that type of business relationship? Let’s look at each step individually. 

Collaboration is more than just asking someone what they think. To effectively collaborate, several key building blocks must be established. Initially, every organization should set some form of goals, which raises many questions. Who sets the goals? How are they communicated and sold to the members? Are they achievable? Does everyone have input into them? You can answer the first three questions by starting with the fourth one: Does everyone have input into the goal-setting process? If the answer is yes, then the answers to the first three fall into place. 

How do you arrive at collaboration? Ask yourself some more questions: Do I have a strong relationship with my manager, supervisors and employees? Do I work well with others? Do I set aside my personal goals for those of the organization? If you can answer these questions positively, then I would say you are a good candidate for collaborative activities. Initially, we need to establish trust between the employees and the management of the organization. Achieving trust calls for honesty with ourselves, employees and supervisors. We need to understand that our actions affect the trust our employees have in us, and when we act outside of the truth, we create roadblocks to gaining that trust. 

I feel that gaining someone’s trust is a multistep process. First, you must communicate your feelings honestly, explain why you have that position and how you came to support it. Then, sit back and listen to the other person’s perspective. 

Listening is twice as hard as talking 

You can’t communicate without listening. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” 

To succeed, we need to be an active listener. Active listening (AL) is defined as “a process of receiving and reacting to a message from the speaker.”  

Keys to AL include paying attention to your speaker, looking at the person talking, not interrupting, restating or rephrasing what you heard, paying attention to nonverbal communication, summarizing what you’ve heard and giving feedback and support if necessary. Questions should be asked at the appropriate time for clarity. 

By incorporating these steps into dealing with employees, we can say we are truly working to effectively engage our employees in the business. You may not always agree, but you will develop a better understanding as to why others may think differently than you. 

Today’s technology has taken us away from the art of communication because we text, email and post on social media. Our lives are running at a roadrunner’s pace, and we simply don’t take the time to do those things that are important for our daily growth. 

To effectively engage employees, it is essential that we take a step back and use skills that aren’t reflected on a keyboard or by an emoji. 

Remember the adage, “What you say isn’t nearly as important as how you say it” and listen, listen, listen. Now, more than ever, we need to reconnect with our employees and ourselves and look at what is valuable and necessary for our personal and professional success. These are challenging times and using all of our assets is key to a successful outcome.

About the Author

Chuck Kelly

Kelly, president of Kelly Consulting & Mediation Services, has worked with utility industry leaders on safety, labor relations and human resources for more than 30 years. Reach him at 540-686-0118 or cklk3@yahoo.com.

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