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Are you listening? Five common mistakes costing leaders like you

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

There’s an ancient quote from the Greek philosopher Epictetus that says: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Things might have changed a lot since 60AD, but the sentiment still rings true – especially in business.

As the Covid pandemic finally halts its disruption to life as we knew it, you have the perfect opportunity to reassess your ways of working and find a “next normal” that’s even more productive and profitable than pre-2020.

Maybe you’ve already dry-cleaned your favourite outfit for your return to the office. Maybe you’re set on staying home, like Google (who will be working remotely until the end of 2021) and Twitter (who plan to do so indefinitely). Or maybe you’d like to go down the hybrid route, offering the option of both.

But whatever approach you’ve got in mind, you must tune into what your staff are saying and react and adapt accordingly.

Otherwise, you could be facing a “normal” you definitely don’t want, with a disengaged and unproductive workforce – or worse, no workforce at all and a hefty outlay to fill their positions. After all, Accounts and Legal have recently discovered the average employee costs £12,000 for small businesses to replace.

Becoming the “employer of choice” will be the biggest boardroom conundrum over the next decade. It all starts with listening. Lifting up the bonnet and finding out exactly what’s going on.

- Iain Thomson, Director of Incentive and Recognition, Sodexo

Here are five mistakes leaders are making when it comes to listening, and how Culturehood can help.

1. Not knowing where to start

Reward Gateway says that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%, and highly engaged businesses benefit from a 10% increase in customer rating and a 20% increase in sales. Still, Gallup report that only 40% of employees are engaged.

Deloitte have identified the four engagement essentials, and unsurprisingly, hands-on management is at number one. So, even if you don’t know where to start, the most important thing is that you do.

The good news is, through Culturehood’s Define and Discovery process – you’ll be able to identify where your gaps are and what areas of focus are required to help you deliver results aligned to your stage of growth.

In the Define stage, we’ll work together to review your aims, ambitions and existing people operations. That’s a fantastic place to begin.

2. Not actively listening

Do you know the difference between active and passive listening? Because your people do.

Passive listening is defined as one-way communication where the receiver doesn’t provide feedback or ask questions and may or may not understand the sender’s message. Meanwhile, active listening includes responses that demonstrate you understand what the other person is trying to tell you about their experience.

Author Andy Stanley says: “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say”. Active listening is what you want to adopt before your people become disengaged and switch off from both management and their work.

Culturehood’s Discovery stage unlocks insights through employee feedback and one-to-one meetings. Together, we can assess current employment metrics and people practices, all the while showing your workforce that we’re not just listening but are also ready to respond.

3. Not being flexible

The last year has been tough for all of us, but take a moment to consider the impact it’s had on your people. Whether they’ve been furloughed, have had to juggle childcare and home-schooling alongside their projects and tasks, or have seen an impact on their mental health due to the pandemic, they need (and deserve) your attention, consideration and respect now more than ever.

Staff who are listened to will respond better in their jobs, too. According to a Forbes study, employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

In the Design stage, we will craft a people plan blueprint that aligns not only with your business aims but with your people too.

4. Not communicating both ways

A transparent working culture will give you a competitive edge.

Essentially, that means implementing two-way communication. First, you’ll need to define and be open about your long-term mission, vision and purpose. This will reduce ambiguity and set clear expectations among your workforce.

Then, it means reaching out to your people, and asking them for their ideas to make that mission, vision and purpose a reality.

The Discovery stage covers qualitative metrics like employee turnover, recruitment spending, and time to recruit and onboard, as well as qualitative feedback from those who matter – your people – to foster this two-way communication. It supports a smooth transition to whatever way of working you choose, and uncovers people’s preferred working styles so they can do their jobs as effectively as possible.

The Design stage, in particular, will see us recommending strategies to improve your employee experience based on your goals and your staff’s feedback, weaving everyone’s contribution into the fabric of your culture.

5. Not maintaining the habit

In Dale Carnegie’s iconic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, he says: “80% of those dissatisfied with managers are also disengaged from employers”. Today’s employees demand good leaders who will give them everything they need to do an exceptional job – and it’s no secret that those needs may change over time.

Cultural transformation is a journey, not a destination. Quarterly pulse surveys are recommended to track and evolve to ensure we are continuing to build an engaged and successful company culture.

If you’re ready to listen, Culturehood is prepared to help. Let’s get your workforce motivated and committed to your mission and purpose, let’s position you as a credible leader who cares, and let’s make your business thrive and grow.

Get in touch today at



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