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The subtle art of listening

Posted on 10/8/17 by Tom Holmes

As you transition from small to medium sized organisation, the number of staff you employ and the number of clients you service increases. Taking the time to manage both of these correctly can help to identify and avoid problems. The key is to listen to what they are saying.

“When you are a small company of six or seven people it is easier to talk to your staff or for them to raise concerns with you,” says Nutbourne Managing Director Marcus Evans. “When that number increases to say 25 or 30 it’s harder for employees to make their voices heard. Management’s default position tends to be to fight fires rather than preventing them.”

One of the biggest problems Nutbourne faced this year was that nobody had made time for management. Having grown from seven employees in 2013 to just under 30 in 2017, Marcus admits that the company were just about doing the yearly appraisals.

“The problem that creates is that most employees goals weren’t accurate. You, therefore, can’t hold them accountable because you haven’t steered them. Added to that, there were a number of grievances that we didn’t know we had.

“When I took over as Managing Director, I introduced daily management procedures. I meet with employees weekly for an informal chat, monthly for a more lengthy discussion about how work is going, and quarterly to look at the appraisal and see how it’s tracking.

“What this has given us is greater transparency in the organisation and greater motivation amongst our team. People are no longer sitting on problems because they haven’t spoken to management for months. They are empowered because we can track their progress against their appraisal. It is arguably one of the most important things we have done as a business.”

Equally important, Marcus adds, is the decision to roll out a similar policy with clients. Nutbourne found that every so often a client would serve notice without reason or any indication that they were doing so.

“We’d have no idea, or that it was even coming and there would be nothing we could do. We have an account management process we put in place a couple of years ago.

“We have monthly or quarterly meetings to talk about issues resolved, quality of work, satisfaction. With that in place they see we’re doing the job we’re paid to do and they can bring any problems to us and we can resolve them without it ever becoming contract threatening.

“Every aspect of staff and client management is all about communication. If you aren’t communicating you aren’t listening, and if you aren’t listening you aren’t able to make a decision about what to do because you don’t know the situation.”    

Posted in Business, Business Strategy

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