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The Power of Genuine Listening: Cultivating an Environment Where Employees Stay and Thrive

Creating an Environment Where Employees Want To Stay and Want to Play

A critical element in cultivating an environment where employees want to stay is not about implementing some complex strategy. Rather it is rooted in a surprisingly simple practice: genuine listening.

Picture this scenario that most small business owners can relate to:

After a long day managing people, resources, and strategy, it is time to retire for restorative sleep. However, a late-night text message from a team member arrives. Although the message may not explicitly mention leaving, it hints at such intentions, prompting a flood of concerns about potential departures, the necessity of replacements, the possibility of others leaving, and the impact on client retention.

This swirl of worries and apprehensions highlight the impact an employee’s announcement of departure can have, not just on our tranquility of sleep, but on the way we see the future of our organization and how we relate to each and every employee.

It is an easy and automatic reaction to dismiss the message with resignation and a kind of “it is their problem” view or, on the other end of the spectrum, to come up with a scheme or plan to persuade them to stay.

Such responses, however, tend to perpetuate a cycle of relational detachment, transforming team relationships into transactional interactions devoid of genuine connection.

This insight leads to the recognition of a fundamental, yet often overlooked, component required to cultivate a work environment where employees genuinely desire to stay and are less inclined to leave when faced with challenges: genuine listening.

Leader listening to his employeeThis realization comes from confronting and acknowledging one’s usual listening habits, especially in perceived threatening situations. Recognizing that listening was often colored by personal biases, opinions, judgments, and fears, the importance of engaging in genuine conversations and relationships with employees becomes clear. Adopting a mindset of openness where “listening with an open mind and an open heart” is a part of the culture, opens up possibilities and allows for a more authentic communication process.

In practice, one of my clients applied this approach in a meeting with an employee who had sent a similarly troubling message. By intentionally setting aside preconceived judgments and fears, the manager was able to lead a discussion that revealed the employee’s deep loyalty to the team and her significant personal and professional ties to the organization. Despite the employee expressing needs that could not be immediately addressed due to financial constraints, the conversation ended with a mutual understanding and commitment to the future, transforming their relationship into a genuine partnership.

Nurturing a work environment that people buy into, want to stay in, and enjoy playing in is fostered by going beyond surface-level engagements. Such an environment arises from authentic connections and a mutual recognition of our roles in each other’s lives.

Do you need to bring more genuine listening into your workplace?

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