Cultures of listening

I was recently talking with a good friend about Ronald Reagan’s highly criticized trickle-down economics. We discussed how the idea that the rich make money for it to trickle down to everyone below simply doesn’t work. However, a trickle-up approach could enable people in the middle and the bottom to make money and help it move upwards.

The conversation enabled me to see the parallels between cultural transformation and change management in organizations. Instead of trickle-down economics, I encourage you to think about trickle-up transformation. For example, when employees feel disheartened because nobody listens to them, it can severely impact organizational performance.

However, many organizations are creating a movement that captures their leaders’ attention. Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and employee engagement surveys are just a few of many areas that bring a trickle-up transformation to life. It begins as a trickle from below and slowly makes its way up to the executive leadership team. It’s something that I have witnessed many times when I work with culture teams and focus groups.

It often begins when an employee engagement survey uncovers opportunities to improve the employee experience and culture within an organization. When team members are put together in a room to tackle some of these issues, something magical happens. Employees feel powerful when they know that their feedback will be acted upon, which is why I speak about the importance of creating a Culture of Listening™  in my new book.

In my experience, leadership teams want to know more about the problems we uncover and the solutions that we want to put into place. Leaders simply want what is best for the organization and its teams. Implementing changes takes time, but transformation begins through this Cycle of Listening™ . That’s how the trickle-up transformation improves organizations.

Let’s get some groups of employees together in person and start listening. Maybe a facilitated session with an outside consultant like myself and my team at Employee Fanatix would help you create a conversation. We can then get people talking and start gathering three to five action steps to help the organization begin its very own trickle-up transformation.

Traditionally, it will be either the leaders in your group or your consultants that will report their findings to your executive leadership team. Although you might be offered five suggested actions, you don’t have to do them all straight away. I often advise organizations to focus on two things that will deliver the most value. It’s from that moment that things really start to happen.

When employees get involved and committees are created, employees naturally start to feel that their voice is powerful, and teams believe they can make a difference together. Embedding a Culture of Listening™  within your organization also involves action. It’s only when teams know that leaders are listening, and things are actually changing that you will notice a significant change in your next employee engagement survey results.

You will start to see some positive numbers go up, you will also begin to see some sentiment changing, and it’s all because of the power that they felt when you listen to their voice and when they were allowed to be the change they were seeking in the organization. That is the power of a trickle-up transformation.