How to Be a Boss That Engages Your Employees, According to Oprah

July 28, 2017

Oprah Winfrey believes being a great manager comes down to really hearing what your employees have to say; otherwise you will likely disengaged their employees.

Oprah Winfrey has interviewed everyone from prisoners to former presidents to the biggest celebrities in the world. What she’s discovered from those conversations is that everyone, regardless of who they are, has the same fundamental need:

The need to be heard.

“Every argument you have, the real reason for the argument is you are not hearing me,” Oprah said in an interview with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, which is available on LinkedIn Learning. “That's so fundamental to human nature.”

Understanding this simple need is essential for managers hoping to form lasting relationships with their employees. If an employee doesn’t feel like they are heard, it might not result in an argument. But it’ll almost certainly result in disengagement and potentially that employee leaving for greener pastures.

Conversely, a manager who makes it a point to hear what their employees have to say is one who will have an engaged team. Oprah herself has adopted this mantra, to great success.

"Just being heard levels the playing field and eliminates a lot of tension and a lot of, you don't know me, you didn't understand me, you didn't get, you didn't all that," Oprah said. 

How to make an employee understand you are hearing them

Managers need to give their employees an opportunity to say what’s on their mind and then actually listen to their points. That doesn’t mean the manager has to do everything their employees want, but it’s essential to give them the security to say what’s bothering them or a new idea they might have, Oprah said.

So, how can a manager pull that off?

First off, managers should have regular one-on-meetings with their employees. Here, employees should be allowed to communicate freely about what’s bothering them or suggest any new ideas they might have to improve the organization.

For managers, when an employee is making their point, it's on you to listen to what they have to say. After they make their point, mirror it back to them so they understand you understand what they're saying, Oprah said.

From there, the manager has two options: either the suggestion is both practical and makes sense and they can work with the employee to execute it. Or, if the suggestion isn’t realistic, they can explain why it isn’t possible.

“When I got that, it changed the way I listened,” Oprah said. “It changed the way I heard things and I think it's one of the most powerful things you can let someone know is that I hear you.”

Oprah Winfrey drops an arms-full of advice in her interview with Jeff Weiner on LinkedIn Learning. You can watch the full interview today for free.