If you’ve been in the workplace long enough, you’ve no doubt worked for an organization where employees are nothing more than cogs in a machine. It’s not the best way to get the most out of talent if you were to ask me, and while there are certainly companies that still approach business in this fashion, an increasing number have moved away from such a mindset and have taken up a more people-centric leadership style — one that values each person as individuals and recognizes what those individuals uniquely contribute to operations.

A large part of that leadership style involves a paradigm shift in communication, where it’s no longer about directing and dictating but engaging in authentic conversations that can help establish deeper connections with team members. Free-flowing communication has a way of encouraging those within the ranks to do the same. They’re more willing to make suggestions, challenge ideas, and collaborate with others on the team. Collaboration, as you may very well know, saves time, and time is money. Deloitte put a number on that, finding that teamwork is worth around $1,660 per employee per year.

The question then remains, how do you go about engaging in more authentic conversations with employees to support a people-centric leadership style? The following are often the best places to start:

1. Practice active listening.

Listening sounds simple enough, but its practice is something many leaders struggle with — more than half, according to a recent Gitnux Marketdata Report. Why the difficulty? It depends on the individual. For some, it all comes down to a natural desire to talk. People often want to appear knowledgeable, so they end up monopolizing the conversation with what they know. Others struggle as a result of biases or preconceived notions and view a given employee through a filter that prevents them from listening. Ego, multitasking, and just plain old judgement can also get in the way.

Correcting this behavior is a personal task but well within reach of everyone. Even the worst listeners can learn how to listen. Just understand that it will take practice. It will also take being fully present, absorbing what the other person is saying, and asking questions if not echoing back what you’re hearing. And most importantly, resist the urge to interrupt or interject. The goal here is to give someone else the “floor” and allow you to better understand that team member’s motivations and concerns. Doing so doesn’t just stave off communication breakdowns; it can improve productivity and collaboration by as much as 25%.

2. Embrace greater transparency.

Leadership has a unique role in any organization, having the responsibility of not only addressing day-to-day issues but aligning resources, offering strategic direction, creating development plans, and so on. It’s no wonder why transparency has taken a backseat — or been stowed in the trunk — as of late. An unfortunate circumstance, especially when you consider that 80% of workers want to know more about how decisions are made. If they want to know, why leave them in the dark?

Kelly Knight, Integrator and President at EOS Worldwide, puts it best: “Leaders need to consciously prioritize keeping what’s happening and why at the forefront of messaging and communications with teams. Being open and honest lays a strong foundation of trust. If teams believe that information is free-flowing and accessible, it draws everyone closer to the work. It also unifies and strengthens teams working together toward the common good, as there’s no sense of feeling ‘out of the loop.’”

Knight recommends putting yourself in the shoes of your team, anticipating the inevitable tough questions, and making sure that you’re always coming from a place of genuine care and concern when relaying difficult information. It’s all about being consistent with your communications, as well as your actions, expectations, and the like. Perhaps this means holding regular meetings to ensure everyone has all the necessary information. Maybe it’s enacting a policy around sharing details about the company with the entire team. How you embrace transparency is entirely up to you, but the approach should be consistent.

3. Foster inclusion and diversity.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has been gaining momentum over the last decade or so, and much of the focus has involved eliminating discrimination in all its iterations. First of all, DEI is the right thing to do. Fair treatment should be standard within every organization. However, taking up DEI initiatives can offer your business more than a few strategic advantages — chief among them being innovation. Recent research found that groups with diverse backgrounds routinely generate more innovative solutions than those lacking diversity.

Building a more diverse, inclusive culture also has a way of cultivating a greater sense of belonging, which can be of great benefit to employee engagement, productivity, problem-solving, brand reputation, talent acquisition, and more. People simply feel valued for their unique qualities and contributions, making for a healthier work environment where talent wants to work. But to ensure DEI efforts are successful, never neglect the communication aspect of the equation. Respect all employees in your words and deeds. Accept people for who they are and fall back on the active listening that you’ve been working on. Only then will you truly reap the benefits of DEI.

When it comes to successful leadership, effective communication has long been key. That much hasn’t changed, and it won’t likely change anytime soon. What has changed is the approach to communication, especially with communication in the workplace. Barking orders is no longer a thing. Instead, it’s more about inspiring team members to continue contributing their best to whatever goal you’re hoping to achieve. If you can do that, then your business is in a much better position to succeed.


  • Brittany Hodak

    Keynote Speaker and Author

    Brittany Hodak is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynotes across the globe to organizations including American Express and the United Nations. She has written hundreds of articles for Forbes, Adweek, Success, and other top publications; she has appeared on programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN; and she has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton. She originated the role of Chief Experience Officer at, and she founded and scaled an entertainment startup to eight figures before exiting. Entrepreneur magazine calls her “the expert at creating loyal fans for your brand.” Brittany’s debut book, Creating Superfans, will be in stores on January 10, 2023.