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Leadership Thought #346 – Are You Listening?

May 2, 2012

Free Serious ethnic female consultant listening to black male client problems while sitting at round table together in light psychology center Stock Photo

Most people I know are not good at listening. They are more focused on what they think and what they have to say about something rather than listening to what is being said. I have a colleague who states that, as a leader, you need to “listen until it hurts” and I completely agree with him.  The level of satisfaction any of us have after a given conversation is related to how well we feel we were heard by the other person.

The number one complaint I get when I interview employees is the general sense that there is a lack of effective communication.  When you drill down on the issue it is not so much that vital information isn’t being communicated but that the dialogue is a one-way street from the top down. For people to feel fully vested in something, they need to feel that their voice has been considered in the deliberative process.  They need to feel like their opinion matters.

The best leaders learn how to master the art of effective listening.  They fight their impulse to always dominate the conversation.   Instead of seeing themselves as the “go to person” on all significant decisions, they learn to ask good questions, listen to the answers, and facilitate constructive dialogue among the affected parties.  They make people feel like their opinion has value.  They leverage the expertise and talents of others to make sure the best possible decisions are being made by weighing all the important variables and other relevant considerations.

Never limit your organization’s capability to only what you know or feel about an issue.  Always strive to broaden your feedback loop and tap into the collective and unique talents of your employees and your clients.  I have met some very smart people who have only ever gotten so far in their careers because of their inability to listen and learn from others.  Life rewards people who listen well and build consensus.