Retail Observer

November 2014

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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RETAILOBSERVER.COM NOVEMBER 2014 46 RO Timothy Bednarz Team Training Contact Timothy Bednarz at 715.342.1018 or at Excerpt from: A Team's Pupose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series ENCOURAGE QUESTIONS TO IM PROVE OPEN COM M UNICATION C onfident leaders are capable through their actions and attitudes, of creating a healthy work environment. Fostering lines of open communication encourages employees to freely ask questions and discuss any concerns which result in trust, deepening loyalty, creating a broader organizational cohesiveness. Leaders can encourage open communication by practicing the following techniques: • Encourage Questions—Leaders work with employees who have various levels of self-confidence and self-esteem. They must encourage everyone to regularly ask questions. This kind of interaction makes employees more comfortable with the concept of speaking up, and it also gives them confidence to approach the leader without hesitation or procrastination when the need arises. Specifically, leaders should be open and receptive when approached with a question, no matter how trivial the subject. • Look for Opportunities to Ask Questions—Leaders must not passively wait for their employees to come to them with questions. The nature of leadership demands being out among employees, asking questions and soliciting input. In this fashion, leaders can communicate their interests to each employee while keeping tabs on the activities and direction of the organization. Thus, they can anticipate and handle an issue before it explodes into a major problem. • Ask 'Personally'—In the age of instant electronic communication, it is important for leaders to ask questions in person. Email doesn't communicate the tone and nonverbal cues that people often require to fully understand a question. Additionally, face-to- face questions give leaders the opportunity to clearly explain their intentions and get a more comprehensive answer. • Respect the Questioner—In the daily workplace routine, it is not uncommon for a leader to hear a range of questions, from trivial to extremely important. In an open communi-cation environment, they know they must treat every question and questioner with respect, even if the topic is trivial or lacks urgency. Rather than embarrass or alienate the questioner, good leaders validate the specific question and thank him/her for bringing it to their attention. • Listen Actively—When approached with a question, leaders know that it is important to give the employee their undivided attention. However, if their attention is necessitated elsewhere, they should ask the employee if the question could be discussed later, at a specific time convenient for both explaining that they would like to talk when they can provide the needed time and attention both the employee and the question deserves. • Be Cooperative—In most workplace environments, leaders are dealing with daily problems and issues that produce varying degrees of stress. Under these circumstances, it is easy for any individual to appear defensive or adversarial when asked a question, especially an unexpected one. Effective leaders will maintain a consistent attitude and posture that fosters a cooperative spirit. They keep a friendly and open demeanor with their employees by paying attention to their own moods, habits, attitudes, body language and tone of voice. • Take Responsibility, But Don't Solve Every Problem—When approached with questions, a leader should not respond by doing the employee's work for him or her, but there are times when the leader is responsible for developing a solution. The key is to understand the appropriate response for the particular question. Leaders need to set firm and fair limits on what they are willing and able to do so that employees don't place unreasonable demands on their time and energy. At the same time, it is unrealistic to expect their employees to solve every problem without guidance. Generally, the appropriate course of action is somewhere in the middle, where the employee and the leader brainstorm to arrive at an acceptable solution. • Follow Up—Open communication demands that leaders follow up on their responses to questions by making sure the solution is understood, acceptable and implemented. Obviously, the degree of follow-up needs to be proportionate to the question's impact and importance. Follow-up keeps communication with employees open because it often triggers additional questions, input and feedback. In this way, the communication process becomes a continuous, effective loop.

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