Listening is one of the most important tools that leaders have to master. Leadership requires facilitating an atmosphere that different, competing and diverse people must work collaboratively. The mark of a good leader is in their capacity to rally all factors in any given situation and realize a common goal and push for similar objectives. In achieving this fundamental function of leaders, it is important to be able to understand the needs of one colleague and provide a guiding and accommodative leadership in achieving organizational goals. Fortuitous encounters listening makes for an imperative listening competency. Fortuitous listening speaks to the capacity of leaders to pick up underlying social and political connotations formed in the matrix of an organization (Davis & Spears, 2013).
Fortuitous listening often happens serendipitously, giving important insight into the thoughts and perspective of employees. It allows for a behind the scenes advancement of policy enforcement and conflict management (Davis & Spears, 2013). It is through the insight of fortuitous listening that different people have the ability to work towards the organizational goals with all competing factors accommodative incorporated into the policies and business processes. Fortuitous listening, therefore, makes for an important intuitive perspective on the social and political ergonomics in an internal business organization (MacLean Jr. & Westley, 1955).
Servant leadership best defines fortuitous listening. Its principles are keen to observe the value of listening (Greenleaf, Frick, & Spears, 1996). The art of learning by listening to the needs of other offers leaders information on the challenges that their subordinates encounter and often make for valuable points and the basis for problem solution, both individually and as a team. Servant leadership is one of the most proactive and associatively motivated forms of capacity building and active employee motivation (Greenleaf, Frick, & Spears, 1996). It speaks to the power of discernment and making informed decisions by different people. Servant leadership mitigates the insecurities of individual problems and focuses on improving the value of collaborative and objective advancement of organizational goals (Greenleaf, Frick, & Spears, 1996).
Fortuitous Encounters often present themselves in different ways. While unplanned, a casual interaction with an employee can realize important information about a personal challenge (Davis & Spears, 2013). Taking the servant leadership approach can realize better and more efficient mechanisms through which leaders can address difficult situations, conflict, and even personal challenges employees may be facing. Approaching difficult circumstances improves the morale of employees, makes for a better understanding of the organizational goals and often creates for a valuable rapport between the employees and management (Davis & Spears, 2013).
Working as a store attendant presented me with a fortuitous encounter with which I was able to understand servant leadership and practice collaborative conflict resolution between my immediate subordinate and my supervising manager. One of the responsibilities that I held was the creation of a succinct employee schedule. The store ran for 24hours which meant that at any one time, there had to be at least two attendant inside the store. It was critical that the different persons working any one of the three 8 hour shifts was competent and could manage the store without supervision. In creating the work schedule, I was able to work closely with the upper store management and get a clear picture of the company objectives and all the different issue that had been overcome to get the store to its current performance. It was, therefore, my responsibility to ensure that the performance of the store did not fall below the desired performance output.
One of the new interns seemed very efficient and was not slow to grasping all processes within the store. They also had an innate critical approach towards solving the inter-colleague conflict. Towards the last week of their third month, their attendance began to dwindle. Shortly after they always seemed to be around even when their shift was over. After another month, there were reports of inventory in the store that went missing or became difficult to account for. A security system was installed, and on the third day, the employee was caught on camera taking items from the food section of the store. Being responsible for the schedule, I was scheduled to give a weekly report to the store manager on the operations of the store. This presented the perfect platform for the discussion of the employee conduct and suggested possible approaches towards disciplining the employee.
Two days to the weekly update, the camera at the back of the store caught an image of the employee getting into a car parked nearby and getting out fully dressed for his shift eight hours later. This piece of information shifted the approach to the entire situation. Upon further investigation, the other employees talked about the problems that their colleague faced with paying child support and student loans. He had been living in his car for close to two months. He had shared with other colleagues of the possibility of selling his car and moving back with his parents as a resolve. He, however, was an acute state of depression pending, and this was noted by other employees to be a significant factor that affected the work he was meant to do and more importantly his personal development. He had played around with ideas like committing suicide. The information, therefore, presented a unique position for the store management and to myself as a person in a position of authority.
It is important to note that the information that was gathered in the week presented for very influential information regarding decision making and even the overall approach to the situation. It, therefore, was important that the perspective of the employee be brought to the table. A day to the weekly update, I sought to gain more perspective on the struggles of the employee, formulate a model that saw they realized the crime they had committed and also work collaboratively to help the employee. The meeting was not guided by a set of predetermined decisions. In fact, it was meant to be an open forum where the employee performance would be brought to question in a bid to open a platform for them to present their case. In my opinion, they had been through a difficult time in their lives. There were many options for someone in their position. It, however, did not warrant their behavior.
The first step would, therefore, to gather information and then make a decision on how to approach the situation (Greenleaf, Frick, & Spears, 1996). In gathering information, it was important that as the person gathering the information, I presented an empathetic front. By being empathetic and sensitive to the situation, it made it easier for the employee to freely air out their grievances and for the management to lend a helping hand in this time of duress. The use of open-ended questions and very subtle references to the information that had been gathered throughout the week were inherently tied to the value of the entire meeting. By offering an ear, it was easier to come up with an amicable solution for both parties (Greenleaf, Frick, & Spears, 1996).
Some of the competencies that offered the most help in improving the result of such a meeting are the practice of unfiltered listening practice. It is important that the perspective of the employee be understood (Greenleaf, Frick, & Spears, 1996). Given the already understood information that I had gathered, there was a time when the employee needed the job they had and worked diligently. The sequence of events that led them to the eventual insubordination, therefore, warranted some consideration. Being able to listen to the words of the employees without any predispositions (Greenleaf, Frick, & Spears, 1996). Their case is better understood and therefore an inherently valuable source of information.
Fortuitous Encounters have been known to elicit important information on different issues. In any leadership capacity, the value of one leadership is in their ability to make connections between competing and conflicting parties. Relying on credible and first-hand information to ensure that informed decisions are made in any one setting is an important competency. In my case, I was able to understand the underlying influences that undermined the store's performance. In addition to this, it offered for an important conversation with the most affected party.
After careful consideration and full disclosure from myself and the employee, we were able to address their insubordination and come up with a model that they could pay for the things they had taken from the store. In order to make the employee realize the gravity of their actions, the payment of lost items from the beginning of insubordination was doubled regardless of whether or not the employee did take the items. We also agreed that they were in need of overtime hours to get out of their situation, and off course help win repaying the store. This made for a solution that all parties including the upper-level management saw fair and considerate.
Davis, P. & Spears, L. (2013). Fortuitous encounters (1st ed.). New York: Paulist Press.
Greenleaf, R., Frick, D., & Spears, L. (1996). On becoming a servant-leader (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
MacLean Jr., M. & Westley, B. (1955). Research on "Fortuitous" Communication: A Review on JSTOR. Jstor.org. Retrieved 30 January 2017, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30219739
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