Wading through the expert opinions and projections as to when the coronavirus veil will finally lift is a full-time job. With so much noise and misinformation, it is difficult to know who to trust. This is especially challenging for leaders of organizations trying to plan and prepare for a new world. Making accurate financial projections and piecing together coherent strategic plans that can make a 6-month run in the current climate is a luxury. I was told recently by an individual who seems to always have a solid pulse on market trends that he thinks it will be five years at a minimum before things return to some semblance of normal (full restaurants, no masks, etc.). Woof.
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.