Tom Schmitt, President and CEO of FedEx Global Supply Chain Services and Senior VP of FedEx Solutions, has a way of staying connected: "I call each of my 550 employees on their birthday. It's hokey, but when I call them, it's not to sing 'Happy Birthday,' but to ask what the biggest single thing is they are working on and what their headaches are. It gives me a collective pulse of what's going on and makes them feel I care enough about what is going on. It just takes five minutes to have that conversation."
It's been said that the best leaders put their calendars where their mouth is. If you say that your people are your most important resource, it should show in your schedule and in the conversations you have. Talking to each of your employees about what they are working on and what headaches get in the way would speak volumes about your commitment as a leader. Whether it's your birthday gift or just your way to take the pulse of your organization, build a listening habit into your regular schedule.
Instead of just focusing on headaches, try taking time to focus on opportunities and best practices. Try a few different questions: What one thing one thing have you done this year that you're proudest of? What lesson have you learned that others could benefit from? What opportunities are you aware of that might be worth pursing? It's not just the time you spend listening; it's the questions you consistently ask that make listening worthwhile. Who can you give the gift of attention to this week?
(Source: Tom Schmitt, President and CEO of FedEx Global Supply Chain Services and Senior VP of FedEx Solutions (Brendan Coffey, "Leadership Quotient," Executive Travel, May/June, 2007, pp. 42-48.)