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One of my favorite things to dig into with business leaders is the organization’s feedback loop. Specifically, what they are doing to ensure they have a pulse on their team members. Not just productivity, but buy-in, culture fit, emotional health, etc. Most immediately point to their performance reviews or one-on-one meetings. Everyone seems to love the 360-degree performance review these days. (For the record, if you’re an employee participating in a 360-degree performance review, be careful, most managers have fragile egos and can’t handle your constructive criticism. Your fears are legitimate.). Anonymous surveys are better, as long as there isn’t an undercover employee in IT telling the CEO who said what (I’ve seen this and I wish I was kidding).

Maybe your feedback loop is fairly robust and you provide ample opportunity for your team to share their perspectives. You feel pretty good about where things are going and you’ve put together a fairly solid team. There is quite a bit of (mostly great) information out there about how integral active listening is to strong leadership. It seems simple, but it’s true. Good leaders are usually good listeners, even if they weren’t born naturally bent to bend an ear (looks in the mirror). Jedi level though? The best leaders I have ever seen have trained themselves to listen for what their people aren’t saying.

by Matt Thomas

I spent two years working for one of the largest privately-held home builders in the country. I took the job with this company because of their reputation for exceptional in-house training and robust customer service model; not because I knew anything about building or selling production homes. In one of the many training workshops I went through during my time with this company my favorite executive hammered home three words I’ll never forget, “Bad News Fast.” He shared this nugget inside the context of customer experience but I watched it permeate our internal culture and operations. The result? Employees always knew where they stood. The only team members who carried anxiety were low performers or poor culture fits. In truth, they should have been anxious.

Over the past few days I’ve spoken with business owners who have lost everything, more who have had to get as lean as possible, and some who are well-positioned to flourish in times like these. After discussing the health of their businesses the thing I have been most curious about is how they are communicating with their employees.