In the celebration of the rescue of 33 Chilean miners this week, one group of people was conspicuously absent. Where were the mine owners? If you’ve been following this story for the last ten weeks, even a little, then you know this mining accident has brought into sharp focus the dangers of a bottom line that focuses exclusively on profits.
In an interview with Spanish news agency EFE, Javier Castillo, secretary of the union representing the employees of Compañia Minera San Esteban Primera, the owners of the mine, said the following: “Management operates without listening to the voice of the workers when they say that there is danger or risk.”
Unfortunately, that observation is all too common in many organizations today, and in many, it's not just only safety that is on the line.
In the last three weeks alone, here’s what I’ve heard:
- A college freshman on an athletic scholarship is considering transferring schools because the coach doesn’t listen to the players on the field, who are assessing the conditions on the ground, until it’s too late. The coach then belittles the athletes when the game is lost.
- A person who’s a month into a new job already hates it because the leadership is overworking (i.e. 18 hour days) and not listening to the expertise of the employees- presumably the expertise they were hired to share in the first place.
- A veteran employee at a huge corporation that’s struggling financially, whose innovative money making and saving idea was shut down- not even considered- because management is out of touch with current technology.
Sound familiar? Part of making the shift to a renewable way of working together means recognizing that the people who work for you, and the people you serve – your clients and constituents- have something to say.
And, if you’re paying attention, what they’re saying can make a world of difference to your organization. How to get there?
- Start by asking purposeful questions. When was the last time you asked “how are things going?” and really meant it? And, did you really listen to the answer?
- Remember to use participative processes. Everyone at your organization has something to contribute. Often the people on the front lines have the most powerful insights to offer, if given the opportunity.
- Work playfully. Think this is silly? Guess again. Playing together not only builds trust and creates an environment for more honest conversation, it creates an environment for innovation. This year’s Nobel Prize Winners in Physics discovered graphene because every Friday the lab stopped work to play. Look at Google. While they’re a controversial organization these days, they are innovating left and right because their employees spend 20% (1 full work-day a week) of their time playing. And, in order for those innovative ideas and discoveries to take shape, someone had to listen.
What’s going on in your context? Are you listening?
Need help making the shift? Check out these resources: 19 or More Ideas for Asking Purposeful Questions, 19 or More Ideas for Using Participative Processes, 19 or More Ideas for Working Playfully. While designed for leaders of Faith-Based organizations, the ideas can easily be transferred to non-profit organizations, businesses and schools. Call us if you need help in your context!