A work of Heart: The Importance of Listening and the Beginnings of the Addie Ninja
As we were planning the start of addie, LLC, one of the many things we had to create was a logo. We had chosen the dotninja domain to elicit our brand themes of agility and innovation, so we knew that we would incorporate ninja(s) into the logo. My elementary school aged sons, were very excited about using a ninja for the logo and asked if they could help design it. I gave them the go ahead and later that evening I heard them brainstorming and deciding what the logo should look like. As you can see, they came up with some creative ways to incorporate the ninja into a logo and while our version ended up being different than theirs, I enjoyed listening to them come up with ideas and then proudly present them. The experience was also a stark contrast to my childhood in which there was a distinct hierarchy and children were meant to be seen and not heard. At no time in the family hierarchy was I asked to contribute to any of the “adult” conversations or decisions that were being made.*
Similarly, in the professional world many leaders surround themselves with top members of the hierarchy to strategize with and make important decisions without asking their employees or listening to input from those lower in the hierarchy, and therein lies one of the reasons why employee morale is often cited as being low by companies. When there are changes or decisions that have a widespread effect on employees of an organization then it is necessary that employees' voices are heard; this is not say that executives should always consult or defer to employee opinions, just as parents do not constantly defer to their children, though we all know that in all of our relationships personal or professional, we desire to be “heard”.
Open up any business magazine or site, and you’ll find any number of articles on positive company cultures or improving employee morale and one of the universal tips is to listen: “Make your employees feel that they have been heard”. There are any number of motivational posters, or cute accessories that state “listen” or “silent and listen have the same letters” and as much as they have become platitudes the art of listening is not. Listening is a skill and companies or organizations that want to thrive have to make listening to people up and down the hierarchy a part of their company culture because when people feel valued, they give you their best work, just like my sons gave me their fabulous logos.
*My point about my upbringing is simply a statement of fact and not a value judgement on my childhood.