“Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly.” – Anonymous
“Listening to others’ viewpoints may reveal the one thing needed to complete your goals.” – D. Ridgley
The following ideas regarding face to face visits with people are a pre and post pandemic approach. For now, social distancing, face masks, and zoom calls are the safe and proper protocol.
Proactively listen to your employees, clients, and vendors. Management guru, Tom Peters calls it MBWA, or “managing by walking around.” You’ll discover how much your employees appreciate that you care about them, their ideas, and their opinions. Ask your people these simple questions, and you will gain invaluable knowledge:
- How can we do what we are doing better?
- What do you need that will help you do your job better?
- Where do you see waste, and where do you see opportunity?
- What are our clients telling you?
When we begin a new coaching relationship, at our first on-site meeting, we interview around ten staff members. We ask each person the same questions. Depending on what is shared, we will go more in-depth. We hear everything from grievances to great ideas. Sometimes we discover the superb talent of someone that had not been recognized. Other times we find interior terrorists who are sabotaging the culture.
The reason people open up to us is that we establish trust, and we listen. People want to be heard. We make everyone aware that we will be sharing what they say with the CEO, and if they want what they tell us not to be attributed to them, all they have to do is let us know.
When we share with the CEO, it often leads to better, more open and honest communication with the team.
The best way to get feedback from clients is face to face. Surveys are useful, but they will never replace the dynamics of actually spending time with your clients when you are not there to sell. Here are some essential questions to ask.
- How is your business?
- What are your plans and goals for this year and the future?
- What are your most significant challenges?
- What are we doing right, and what can we do better?
- Is there anything our competition is doing better?
- What other services and products would you like us to offer?
I recommend the CEO and members of the leadership team take at least two road trips a year to visit clients at their offices. These six questions will lead to countless opportunities and generate more business by accident than a dozen sales calls.
Your vendors are also an invaluable source of information. They see and talk to your peers and competition. They are a great source of benchmarking for anything from displays to the best software. They also know what advertising and promotions are working, and may know what great talent is looking for greener pastures.
Make today the day you listen to learn and to understand.
“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” – Dalai Lama