JS Tip 439: Leaders and Communicating

From the Leadership Workshops: Leaders and Communication

Leaders visit, talk with, and listen to their people.

  • Sam Walton

    The founder of Wal-Mart would drive his dented F-150 pickup truck to Wal-Mart stores across the country. He’d park in the parking lot and walk into the stores.

    He would not go immediately to the manager’s office. He’d talk to the men and women on the floor, the people in the blue vests. He’d ask questions: “How are you doing?” “How are things going?” “How can we make things better?”

    The employees loved him for it. After he died, the employees suggested a change to the Wal-Mart logo. Instead of a squiggle between the “Wal” and the “Mart,” they suggested a star. The star represented “Mr. Sam.”

    Jim Rogers

    The CEO of Synergy held listening sessions. He asked his employees for feedback. He asked his employees to grade his performance: A, B, C, D, or F.

    He said that as he waited for the results, his heart always beat faster. Some gave him A’s. Some gave him B’s. A few C’s. And so on. 

    He went further: “Look, not only grade me as a CEO, but tell me what can I do better.” He addressed those challenges. He built trust. 

    For years afterward, the employees talked about the meetings when the distance between the CEO and the employees disappeared.

    This story comes almost verbatim from The Harvard Business Review, “How Effective Leaders Talk (and Listen)” on the internet. 

Leaders cannot lead if they don’t know what their people are going through, and they have to visit their people to discover that.

We’ll end our discussion next week.

Mark Brooks