What does it take to engage and motivate employees in today’s high pressure workplace? “Employee expectations are changing,” says Human Resource specialist, Carrie Patrick, and leaders need to take note.
Recent studies show the root cause is simple—our employees don’t feel heard.
What can we, as leaders, do to remedy this? A glimpse through very recent history provides insight. Most remember Nelson Mandela as a South African revolutionary who not only became South Africa’s first democratically elected President, but also won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to abolish the apartheid regime and establish a peaceful and nonracial democracy in his country. To the world, he was an incredible dignitary, someone who spoke across the lines that divide people from one another. But to those who worked with him directly, he was someone who listened.
During the time I worked with Mandela, he often called meetings of his “kitchen cabinet” at his home. He’d gather half a dozen men around the dining room table, or sometimes in a circle in his driveway. Some of his colleagues would shout at him to move faster, but Mandela would simply listen. When he finally did speak, he slowly and methodically summarized everyone’s points of view.
Mandela showed this same courtesy to everyone he worked with, including those who opposed him. During negotiations, he would sit quietly until all participants had the opportunity to state their opinions and voice their arguments. Then, before sharing his own thoughts, he would go around the room, making sure he correctly understood everyone’s point of view.
Mandela often said, “People respond in accordance to how you treat them,” and he felt everyone deserved to be heard. While Mandela was President, a young writer named Zakes Mda began publishing articles about the financial changes happening under Mandela’s leadership. About a year into the Presidency, Mda sent a long letter directly to Mandela. “To his credit,” Mda says, “he phoned me within a week and arranged a meeting between me and three of his senior cabinet ministers… That Mandela listened attentively to the complaints of an ordinary citizen, and took me seriously enough to convene such a meeting, was extraordinary.”
The workplace, as we know it, is changing. As today’s employees increasingly search for purpose and inclusiveness, we must shift our leadership approach accordingly. Nelson Mandela understood that to work with someone successfully, to motivate them in any way, he first had to hear them. He cultivated a practice of listening to what others had to say, and in return, they listened to him, too. Sometimes, it really is that simple.
Are you wondering how to inspire trust from your employees? Want to help your leadership team lead in a more respectful, inclusive manner? Let us help! Our unique approach to leadership training harnesses the power of experiential learning to teach time-proven leadership methods that get results. Let us share more leadership lessons from Nelson Mandela in a workshop or staff retreat. You bring the team members, and we’ll create an immersive learning program, linking timeless historical examples with your individual workplace issues.
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Nelson Mandela understood that to lead effectively, he must first respect and understand the person in front of him. What are some ways we could better listen to those we lead? How could our improved understanding lead to better business? What changes would you like to see in your department? Please share your stories and ideas in the comments section, below.