NOTE: This is Part 1 of a series of posts inspired by 40 very active hours of travel on March 13-14, 2015. There will be at least 3 more entries in this series.
I don’t care about $2. I do care about employees who don’t feel like they are being listened to.
Me – (confused about why she needed a credit card) “I actually paid for my bag online.”
Erin – (sounding exasperated) “I know, but there is a $2 fee for checking in out here.”
Me – (trying to be funny/sympathetic) “Well that stinks.”
Erin – “Yeah, it’s supposed to be a convenience fee for not going inside. We’ve complained about it, but no one listens.”
Me – “I hate to hear that.”
Erin – “Yeah, they don’t listen to the people actually doing the work. They sit in their ivory tower and make decisions that we have to deal with. That’s corporate America, nothing we can do about it.”
You could hear the resignation in her tone. Here is an employee with a voice, with something to say, and no one is listening. Or at least that is her perception.
And of course, that perception is Erin’s reality.
Erin dutifully printed my boarding passes and my receipt for the $2. As she handed the documents to me, she said with a wily smirk and a chuckle, “and here is your receipt for the $2.” Then she very pleasantly wished me a safe flight and a nice day.
How hard is it to listen to someone? How tough is it to spend the time to pay attention to what the front line employees are saying? It’s not hard and it’s not tough. But it does take time and an open mind – two things that seem to be in short supply these days.
As a leader, we have choices about where we focus our time, our energy and attention. If you think that listening to your employees is not worth your time, think about this.
Dr. Rick Bommelje, one of the foremost authorities on listening and leadership, has studied the emotional impact of being listened to for years. He has found that the feelings of being listened to are so close to that of being loved that most people can’t tell the difference.
So when you listen to your employees, or even if they PERCEIVE that you are listening, they will get the feeling that you care, and won’t feel like my friend Erin. Defeated and unengaged.
Even if that $2 is the difference between financial success and failure, Erin doesn’t know it. Because she doesn’t know it, she doesn’t care. That impacts how she explained the fee to me, and how this blog post got written.
Had she said, “I understand, and am sorry you didn’t know about the fee. It’s for the convenience of avoiding the long lines inside. We can get you through much quicker.”
That would be worth $2, right? But I am NOT calling for the retraining of Erin. I am calling for Erin’s leaders (and everyone like them) to listen to your employees. Again, even if you keep the fee, let her know WHY you have the fee, why it’s important and why it is beneficial to the guests.
As a leader, you want that $2, right? You’ve got to earn it… not just by tacking on an extra fee, but by listening and communicating with your employees. That’s the REAL focus of your job.
Thanks for reading… now go listen!
About the author: Matt has written about broken policies with the airlines before. As it so happens, the airline in this situation is one of the guilty parties. Maybe the execs aren’t listening to their employees about that fiasco either.