Aspiring leaders or anyone wanting to get ahead requires that you are unique, productive, and at the end of the day, produce results. To accomplish these things, people need to trust and respect you. Before anyone can do that, they need to hear you, not just listen to you, but hear and comprehend what you are saying.
Fifteen or so years ago, my manager put me in charge of a company-wide initiative that would require all department heads and nearly a year or so of work to complete. The pressure was enormous, and the first month of project meetings was not going well. I discussed and assigned tasks, and it seemed like no one heard what I was saying. Nothing was progressing the way I had laid it out in my mind. The ship looked like it was sinking, and the crew was halfway in the lifeboats.
A member of my team came into my office after one of my project meetings. She said to me, very bluntly, “If you want this project to succeed, you have to start listening to what the team is saying.” At first, I was very defensive, I mean, I listened to everyone, what was she talking about? We continued and had a great discussion together. I realized I might have been listening but did not hear anything the project team was saying. I only promoted my ideas and paid lip service to everyone else’s thoughts. I did not realize the most important thing: A team that has not bought into your ideas will not help you succeed as they do not believe in what you are doing.
How It Got Fixed:
I called a project meeting and went around the room. One at a time, I asked each department head their thoughts and ideas for the project at hand. Only this time, I made eye contact the entire time, I used phrases like “what would you do” and “how would you solve it” to get each person’s take on how they would do it if they were the leader. I also had the group decide on which ideas we would incorporate. In the end, making the team part of the process gave them ownership and “skin in the game.” The project was a success with everyone feeling a great sense of accomplishment.
I have listed below three links to useful articles about listening. I think you will find them valuable in your own pursuit of being a better leader in whatever you do:
- This Is the Most Valuable Skill on Earth by Ryan Jenkins
- Here’s How Great Leaders Listen to and Understand Their Team by Thomas Koulopoulos
- Changing the Way You Listen Will Change Your Life by Susan Steinbrecher
If you find any of these authors as informative as I have, check out additional articles they have written by clicking on their following links: Ryan Jenkins Articles, Thomas Koulopoulos Articles, Susan Steinbrecher Articlesbrecher.
Leading one person or a team of hundreds requires many skills, but I believe my best talent is the ability to “hear” what my team was saying even when they were not speaking. That is an acquired skill that took me years to develop. It started with simply giving them my undivided attention and listening. Stop multitasking and listen; you will accomplish more than you can imagine.