Ask the typical teenager how his day went and you'll probably get a vague response like "Fine," or "Okay." Follow up with a specific question about a science test, however, and you might just get an earful about the teacher who has it out for him, an unfair grading curve or badly written multiple-choice questions. In other words, the day didn't go as well as "Fine" would have implied.

In the same way, says John Baldoni in a post at Harvard Business Online, you won't know how your employees really feel about issues—particularly those related to big changes in the company—unless you get beyond that superficial "Fine."

"Most managers are very good at giving messages," he notes. "[F]ollowing up with repeated iterations is more of a challenge, but a greater challenge is often gauging the effect of the message."

Baldoni has these suggestions for the management team:

  • Walk the halls and make yourself approachable.
  • Listen to feedback and ask follow-up questions.
  • Tell your colleagues what you learn.
  • Let employees know when changes are made based on their input.

The Po!nt: "If you want to know what people are thinking," advises Baldoni, "don't rely on second-hand reports from others. Ask employees yourself and listen to what they have to say."

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