Listen: Key To A People-Centric Workplace Performance Culture

*Forwarded from Feedly*

Listen: Key To A People-Centric Workplace Performance Culture

Written by: Rodger Dean Duncan, Contributor

Want a high performance culture? Learn to listen. Listen to learn.


Employee engagement is the buzz term that just won’t go away.

Why? Because unlike some buzz terms, this one has real meaning for real people in real workplaces. It denotes the degree to which people are genuinely committed to their work and the extent to which they invest their discretionary effort to ensure its success.

But as one truism goes, when all is said and done there’s usually more said than done.

Not so at Barry-Wehmiller a global supplier of manufacturing technology and services. People at this St.Louis-based company take “engagement” very seriously. It’s part of their culture, and it’s a key factor in their remarkable performance.

The Barry-Wehmiller success story is captured in CEO Bob Chapman’s book Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.

In the first part of this conversation (see “Everybody Matters. Really”) , Bob described continuous improvement as the gateway drug to engagement and fulfillment. He also explained how emotional contagion transforms people into “walking mood inductors.”

Here he focuses on the power of listening.

Duncan: For leaders at any level, what do you see as the key to envisioning the ideal future? 

Chapman: The ideal future is one in which our business leaders realize their role is to create economic and human value in harmony! We owe the people in our span of care dignity and meaning through their work as well as a future they can count on. This ideal future is possible if our educators focus on a vision of creating leaders to enter every aspect of our society in service of others. We can’t ask current managers to start to care for the people we lead any more that we can ask them to start speaking Chinese. We need to teach them the skills of good leadership. 

Management is the manipulation of others for your success and leadership is the stewardship of those you are privileged to lead. Our universities need to embrace the responsibility to create leaders who have the skills and courage to care. Only when our universities embrace teaching human skills alongside of technical skills will we be able to move to the ideal future state.

Duncan: In your company’s leadership culture, three things are given special emphasis—deep listening, authentic vulnerability, and courageous patience. Why those particular three things? 

Bob Chapman


Chapman: Listening surfaced as a fundamental skill when we launched Barry-Wehmiller University in 2008 to transform managers into leaders. At first, I was skeptical but, after ten years of teaching Truly Human Leadership to our global team, there is no question that the greatest act of caring for others is not to talk to them, but to listen to them with empathy.  

Additionally, people need to feel comfortable being themselves and not wear a mask to work. When our leaders show their vulnerabilities—their weaknesses—it creates an environment where the team feels safe to share, allowing for better connection and collaboration because they care about each other as people. 

Courageous patience was an observation of Bill Ury, world peace negotiator, Harvard professor and author of Getting to Yes. After his discussion with many of our team members, he told us he sensed the courageous patience we exercise in allowing people to join our cultural journey at their pace. Culture change is slow. But we focus on what is working well and those who are on board and we remain patient with those who aren’t there yet. Eventually they come onboard. 

Duncan: You talk a lot about the power of listening. What role does it play in fixing some of the problems our society is facing today? 

Chapman: I don’t remember a time during which I’ve been more concerned about the future of our country. Before Covid-19 and social unrest eclipsed our lives and dominated our news and social media channels, I spoke often of my concern about the epidemic of “leadership malpractice” throughout our society and the effect it was having in every aspect of our lives. 

As a nation, we now find ourselves in the midst of a level of discourse more toxic and divisive than I’ve ever witnessed and it is contributing to levels of conflict, anxiety and stress that have become unsustainable. These problems can’t be solved by the government. Our businesses and organizations, however, can play a role in healing the brokenness in our society. 



When 88% of the people who have jobs feel like they work for an organization that does not care for them, they do not feel valued. They feel used for someone’s else gain. In business, in politics, in our neighborhoods and communities, people are often not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. In turn, it’s difficult for those who don’t feel cared for to care for others.

Duncan: How do we solve this epidemic of anguish our society is experiencing?

Chapman: I believe it begins with listening. True empathetic listening, where one actually hears the other person’s words and feelings. A listening that builds empathy as it allows us to see things from others’ perspectives. It’s the key to all meaningful relationships as it shows that you respect and care for the person you’re hearing. 

Learning to listen to each other has been fundamental to the success of our journey at Barry-Wehmiller. People are capable of doing amazing things when we foster an environment in which they have a voice, are granted respect and dignity, and are allowed to discover, develop, share, and be appreciated for their gifts in pursuit of the organization’s shared purpose.

If our educational institutions and business organizations taught the skills of empathetic listening, if our business leaders recognized that the people within their span of care are more than functions on a spreadsheet, if we embraced the awesome responsibility of leading those in our spans of care, we could see beyond this world of anxiety and tension to the better world we imagine!

via Forbes – Leadership “”

October 20, 2020 at 01:20AM

Posted in

Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman