Set Up Reality Checks and Listen to Your Employees

Joseph Stubblebine
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In a management position, it is easy to get comfortable and complacent over time. In doing so, you may miss valuable opportunities or fail to notice issues before they become a problem. By building reality checks and systematic feedback into your standard operating procedures, you can stay aware and make the most of your team's expertise.

When you manage employees or own a business, it is easy to get swept up in the excitement of leadership and set wild business goals without considering the practicalities of your situation. As a result, your team can spend years wasting time and energy on goals that are not realistic given the economy, market conditions or equipment limitations. Other managers set realistic goals and fail to adjust them as conditions change. With a system of regular reality checks, you can keep your goals current and ensure that employees are focusing on the tasks with the highest potential for return.

The specific reality checks you use depend heavily on the industry and nature of your position. Consider the dependencies that impact your projects. What happens if they fail? Will you be able to see problems coming before they derail a project? An engineering company, for example, is heavily dependent on raw material suppliers. If a manager operates in a bubble and misses the warning signs of a coming material shortage, his team may waste months working on a project that will never come to fruition. With regular reality checks, however, he will be better able to anticipate the problems and redirect the team's efforts. By keeping tabs on the people and situations that affect your business, you can save time and money.

Many managers and business owners make the mistake of ignoring employee feedback, believing that they have a better big-picture perspective. No matter how involved you are in the business, however, you are not omniscient. When you don't listen to your employees, or assume that you need to have all the answers, you risk losing out on valuable insight; since ground-level employees are intimately acquainted with the details of each project, they are an excellent source of real-time information. In fact, according to The New York Times, employee feedback can be one of the most effective reality checks. By asking employees what they think and taking the time to consider the answer, you can overcome your own damaging assumptions and find more effective solutions. After all, no manager is all-knowing, and seeking help from others results in a well-rounded, thoughtful plan. As an added benefit, you'll demonstrate your confidence in their expertise and build a more collaborative team environment.

For managers, it is all too easy to ignore the reality of any given business situation. Reality checks require humility and a willingness to admit that your original plan is not working. By making an effort to stay current and listen to your employees, you can make smarter, more effective management decisions.

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