“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”  – Colin Powell

Leadership is an indispensable trait the management of your bank or credit union must possess in order to thrive. The hyper-competitive marketplace and economic volatility demand it. But being a leader isn’t always about grandiose and visible. Often, leaders are called to simply listen to their employees. As the quote above indicates, if your staff has stopped coming to you with their problems, you might be nearing a failure of leadership.

Listening to people express concerns and frustrations over their jobs isn’t always an easy task. Managers that rise to this task, however, help ensure their staff still believes in them as a leader, still sees them as caring and will still approach them as a resource in career development.

Below are a few tips that can help ensure your employees remain comfortable discussing their problems with you.

  • Actively listen. There’s nothing worse than a conversation with someone that is obviously listening with only one ear. Make eye contact, use appropriate gestures and posture and ask clarifying questions when going over an employee’s concerns. Remember the ears to mouth ratio. It’s an easy one: 2-to-1. That is, you should listen twice as much as you talk.
  • Remain open to new ways of thinking. Don’t close your eyes to what another is saying just because you don’t understand or disagree. Working to see the world from someone else’s point of view can clarify your vision and enable enhanced communication in the future.
  • Take an interest in their personal lives. People are generally happier to talk about the important things in their lives (family, hobbies, sports) than about the day-to-day tasks at the office. By showing an interest in their lives outside 9-5, you come across as empathetic and caring.

Listening to your employees’ concerns may not have a place in your daily schedule, but it should. We tend to spend a lot of time (and rightfully so) worried about what consumers think of our organizations. It makes sense to be equally as concerned over what our employees (and number one brand ambassadors) think, be it good, bad or ugly. Practice listening to your employees and use that skill as a way to build confidence in the leadership of your organization.