“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
–Bryant H. McGill
A word about listening
Listening. Yes, I know, it’s a leadership topic that’s been tackled by the best of them for a very long time. But read up on any of the current writings about employee engagement, bad bosses, what causes people to leave their jobs, etc., and usually in the mix somewhere is the issue of listening – or the lack thereof.
At its core, listening is one of the most basic soft skills in leadership. If offered, it would be a 101 leadership course in college. Unfortunately, it’s not.
I asked an aspiring manager in a prominent retail chain some time ago what was the most frustrating thing she dealt with as it related to her direct reports. Without hesitation, she conveyed that they just don’t listen. How many of you can relate to her plight?
As leaders, intuitively we know that listening is a priority. Yet, our lives are structured in such a way that listening is an afterthought. Simply put, we are just too busy. Unfortunately, many leaders make the mistake of believing it’s more important that they are heard, therefore, failing at one of the most important things that they can do – listen.
Here are three reminders on why listening is a key ingredient to your leadership. I hope that it is helpful to you.
Listening empowers your people
If you want your people to feel empowered then listen to them. So long as they feel that they have a voice and it’s being respected and heard then you will win them over. When your people are empowered they will go to great lengths to serve you and your organization. Listening creates buy-in. It’s a momentum builder. If you want to empower you people listen to your people.
Listening keeps you grounded
This is the trap that far too many leaders fall into. It’s when you stop listening that you lose touch with what’s going on around you. When you stop listening to all voices and only a few voices, then how can you truly benefit? Soon, the only voices you hear are the ones telling you only what you want to hear. When this happens, your leadership is diminished. Keep the doors to your leadership open with your ears and with an open mind. Often time the best ideas and input flow into your office, not out of it.
Listening keeps you connected
Much like staying grounded, listening keeps you connected to your people. You never want to be so far removed from your people that you don’t hear their heartbeat. To listen to your people is to know your people. When you stop listening to your people, you stop knowing your people. Don’t be so far removed from their heartbeat that they no longer hear yours. Because if you do, then you are only presiding over your own demise as a leader. Stay close, stay connected, and keep listening.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemmingway
“There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak”. – Simon Sinek
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. – Stephen R. Covey
“If the person you are talking to does not appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear”. – Winnie the Pooh
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking”. – Bernard M. Baruch
A final word
The only way listening becomes a strong leadership skill is when we become intentional about it. Remove distractions. Show respect. Put your cell phone away. Look your people in the eye and let them talk. These are just basic courtesies that we need to return to. But we have to look past the basic “how-to’s” and get to a deeper understanding of the greater benefits and how listening impacts us as leaders.