As human beings we look for connections that make us feel a part of something bigger. We want to be recognized, acknowledged, and feel as though we fit in. This sense of belonging to a common cause or campaign is reinforced by communication, connecting us with others. Employees who feel that they have been heard and have a seat at the table, and a voice, are more likely to be emotionally engaged in the success of the company. Follow-up and communication around decisions that have taken employee feedback into account (even if the end result is not what they were hoping for) connects employees at a deeper level with the organization as they know that their voices matter. Key to this connection is creating effective feedback loops.
What do you think?
Having effective feedback loops for employees enables leaders to harness the collective wisdom of the individuals doing the work every day. Marriott International manages more than twenty brands and 3,900 properties in seventy-two countries. It employs more than 325,000 people around the world. Bill Marriott became president in November 1964 and CEO in 1972. Currently serving as chairman of the board, Marriott emphasizes how vital two-way communication is in keeping his employees fully engaged, “Every morning we have departmental stand-up meetings at our hotels. We’ll identify the ‘theme of the day’: What needs work? Where are we slipping a little? Then it’s all hands on deck to work on improving those areas.”
Because employee input is so highly valued within the Marriott properties, these meetings always end with a simple but profound question that managers ask their employees, “What tools do you need to get your work done or to do your job more effectively?” Ensuring that all employees feel their opinions are valued and taken seriously is critical to the company’s success. In his blog, Marriott says the phrase that is key to great leadership is, “What do you think?” He sees it as an opportunity to allow others to express their opinions, show interest in those opinions, and demonstrate that you are willing to pursue their ideas if they have merit. Marriott learned the phrase from President Eisenhower, and it became a powerful tool for his business. He writes, “I think that’s how Eisenhower got along with all those people he had to deal with during the Second World War as a general. He had to deal with Patton, Stalin, and Roosevelt, and with Marshall, Churchill, De Gaulle, and crazy Montgomery. They were a real bunch of characters. Ike got through it all and led us to victory. Because I’m sure a lot of times he asked that question “What do you think?” He didn’t necessarily do what they told him to do, but they knew he was interested in what they had to say.”
Embrace diverse perspectives
Leaders have a powerful opportunity to leverage their greatest asset: people. By making the most of diverse talent that has a rich set of expertise, experience, and cultural backgrounds, leaders are better placed to serve a global customer base. Beyond creating a climate of inclusion, these efforts help leaders build a resilient and resourceful organization that is open to new perspectives. The greater-than-the-sum-of-our-parts concept applies if all the talent and energy of the employees in the company is engaged to the profit of the enterprise and to the creation of a healthy and dynamic corporate culture.
Ask for feedback and mean it
Great leaders listen and evaluate before making decisions. By asking what others are thinking, and in which direction they think an organization should go, leaders invite their teams to think about the business as their own. This sense of ownership and accountability is strengthened when their opinions count. Open communication that encourages accountability across the organization for constant improvement, with every team member feeling responsibility for delivering results, creates a feedback loop that encourages ideas and suggestions and is both powerful and effective. This sense of personal responsibility also empowers employees to drive solutions and deliver value for customers in innovative ways.
Leaders who communicate effectively and create connected feedback networks can harness the power of these communities to feel the pulse of their business. Gathering actionable feedback from employees and following up on this feedback—either in changing aspects of the process or system under review or articulating the reasons for not changing it—gives people a sense of transparency, and creates a leadership team that shows both empathy and humility.
Related: The Power of Awe