Managing through COVID: Listen to your people

Oct. 6. By Cheryl Kane. The boss does not know everything. Leading is not holding all the controls or always directing from a position of power. Constant one-way, top-down directives and practices can stunt the capacity of the best designed and capitalized company.

It has been said the most valuable part of a business is the knowledge it has and how well that knowledge is leveraged. Knowing how to lead effectively enables a business manager to unlock and leverage the value within the organization’s assets—the most valuable of which is its people and their capacity.

There are lists full of examples of what people value in the workplace, and low turnover in those organizations attest to this. You may not be able to offer unlimited vacation time, flexible work hours, or expansive benefit options.

But if you look at those lists closely you see much of what people want, you can offer them:

Effective leadership styles and behaviors at the top that can be perpetuated throughout the organization to unlock the dynamic knowledge of its people and open the path to collaborative, expansive operational success.

Consider auditing your organization’s approach to leading and managing sales professionals, staff on the many frontlines of a business, and those behind the visible components of a business for effectiveness: Are you leading to unlock and leverage all the knowledge in your organization?

Do the people in your organization feel they are:

Acknowledged for their capacity?

Do you have a process to identify their accumulated improvement in skills, experiences, and capabilities since being in their current role-and can they see ways they may be able to contribute this in the future? If not, they will go where they feel valued—taking your investment in them.

Welcomed and included in all aspects of the organization?

Use clear policies (that are followed) for how to orient and treat all employees equitably. Look closely! If you treat employees by stereotypes or assumptions about them, you can create detrimental annoyances—or do great harm. Checklists can help you avoid errors or omissions that can ruin the warm welcome you initially gave an employee. (I once discovered a discreetly placed manager’s lounge after three years of being at an organization; I worked off-hours and alone. No one had ever thought to mention this amenity to me—did they assume I would find it or just not want me to use it?) People will only feel included if you include them.

Respected and accepted in discussions?

A boss is not the only person who can be right. Seek the input of everyone, use open-door policies for feedback and problem solving. Purposely inviting their ideas, questions, and thoughtful comments takes time—it’s an investment not an expense. They won’t share their expertise if you don’t invite them—then listen.

Told ‘Why’?

Show how policies, processes, and goals for individuals relate to the mission of the organization. Firmly saying, “We do it this way” is simply unconvincing. Explaining “why” offers meaningful purpose to their role.

Communicated with in a timely manner?

Timely information and transparency helps people feel respected, trusted, and allows them to make better decisions in their individual work.

Supported when mistakes happen?

If incidental mistakes are treated as learning opportunities growth can occur.  People will not risk even small innovations that save money or time if they fear being unduly punished.


A leader’s style can determine the value people add to the organization.  Managing people well allows you to unlock their knowledge to maximize the return on investment in all parts of your business. Rather than being just an order-taker, people will be more engaged, motivated, and committed to give their best when see themselves as a meaningful member of the teams they serve on and the organization they are a part of.


Cheryl Kane, is a strategic business consultant, sales trainer, & professional speaker specializing in strategic planning and service quality. Cheryl welcomes your communication at email: [email protected].


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