The People’s Champ

My boss likes to say that a huge part my job is to be the champion of my people. In other words, he reminds me how my employees need a leader who cares about them, who listens to them, and who will be their voice in the corporate congress. Employees need someone who is on their side. If not me, then they will find someone else to be their voice – and I probably won’t like who they’ll choose.

When I was first promoted to my current position five years ago I scored very poorly on a category of survey questions about approachability. My directs did not feel they could come to me with their issues. I remembered being frustrated if an employee called my boss or HR with a concern. I understood our open door policy, but it would frustrate the heck out of me to have someone go over my head. My poor survey results were a real eye opener for me – my people were saying they were not comfortable coming to me.

I changed my behaviors and mindset immediately, and never looked back. A year after my first survey I scored over 91% for approachability in my second survey, which the company must have been happy with – they never conducted another survey in my area again.

Now I find myself giving advice to my managers based what I learned the hard way. I tell them to let the employee talk first and listen without interrupting. I tell my managers to focus on positive feedback, encouraging effective future employee behaviors. We challenge our people with big goals and help them develop plans to achieve those goals. When we have to give negative or adjusting feedback to employees, I train my managers to focus on changing behaviors, not the attacking the person. And I train my managers to go to bat for our people when talking to other department heads or senior managers. We need to be their champion.