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Listen, leaders. To start, an admission: I’ve made mistakes in the past because I thought my main job was to make the big decisions. I believed that because I had the headline, my job was to do this I thought that was best – and what was best for the business was to listen to the data. Luckily, I learned that while data is important, there is a more meaningful flow of information that needs to be considered first. It’s your people.
If my years of experience have taught me anything, it’s that we need to dispel the tired idea that once you have a C-suite title, you should make all the decisions and you have to be “right”. , with a capital R. .
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Once you have reached higher heights, your main job is not to make the decisions. Of course, you have to make tough calls and consider data points to do so. But the higher you go up the food chain, the further away you become from the people who do the work – the boots on the ground. The further away you are, the less you have your finger on the pulse.
That’s why the main job of the CEO and management team is to listen. Otherwise, things could go wildly south, leading to failure.
But first, find the people you want to listen to
Here’s the bottom line, though – to stay tuned to the beating heart of your business, you need to hire people you trust and will actually listen to.
A collaborative and open environment means your employees will be safe enough to bring out the real issues. Without security, there is no trust. If people worry about job security or are reluctant to open their mouths for fear of being wrong, you won’t get the basic truth. You’ll end up with a C-suite that inadvertently makes decisions based on fear or job preservation. Probably unlikely to lead to the peak results you are looking for.
Unfortunately, that’s how corporate America generally operates, and it’s neither healthy nor fun. That’s why the best ideas come from below. So what does it look like operationally?
Open and log in
To listen, people must first speak. This is central to the construction of culture. From the word “go”, your team must know and believe in your open door policy. It is non-negotiable; the door must be off the proverbial hinges.
So how do we do this?
Margaritas anyone? At my company, we regularly host happy hours and coffee collaborations on Tuesdays as an informal opportunity to draw in the breeze.
It is essential to take the time to check in with people both officially and unofficially. Such experiences can be worth their weight in gold and demonstrate that your respect for work-life balance is not just lip service. Employees are people and CEOs are people. The more we see each other’s humanity, the more trust develops.
Hire humans who work and play
Unfortunately, what is systematically lost in the work culture is people’s best selves. Their playful, silly and quirky versions are often checked out at the office door. When our professional selves and our personal selves are separate islands, you only ever get half a person.
If you don’t treat employees like whole people, you’re not doing a good job as a leader. I heard it so well recently: our job as managers is not to put out fires but to start fires. This means it’s your job to ignite passion and inspire creativity by creating a safe space to explore, play and make mistakes.
Culture trumps everything
This brings us to culture. Your unique culture should be your bread and butter – something you instill in every encounter with every individual. It means asking yourself, as a leader: How can I build a team and a company that can stay on track with our philosophy? As you grow, if you have people who don’t believe in your culture or your mission, the wheels will come off. Live a philosophy of exploration, creativity and open communication.
Devoting herself to philosophy is what makes her vibrate. It’s not something you do when you feel like it. It’s something you do every day when you wake up and something you do before you go to bed. This is how you live. This is how you run your business and how you live your life. It should be the lens through which you make decisions.
When your team is connected – through work, fun and caring for each other – then you have confidence. Rapport and honesty are the by-products of trust. Trust allows ideas to flow from the bottom up.
The C-suite’s job is to communicate, listen to the team and move the boat forward. A prerequisite is to check your arrogance at the door. When solving problems at Unity Rd., we try to engage with the team as much as possible. Even though I’m sure I have the right answer, I’m still coming back to the team for membership. This makes the process a little slower and more methodical, but can leave you with a much stronger organization.
It also leads to a team with sharper instincts and broader skills – you can shape future VPs and CEOs by empowering people to build resilience through making mistakes. That doesn’t mean you drop them down a flight of stairs, or keep them safe.
It’s essential to put your money where your mouth is when you tell people you believe. Openness, transparency and curiosity go far beyond certainty. So listen, fellow leaders, and get results.