Leading With Listening

Great leaders successfully mine the intellectual capital of those who work for them. How do you get your team to effectually communicate their thoughts and ideas and believe you truly want to hear? How can you capture the full creativity that is in your team? The answer in part is by your skillful and consistent listening. Leadership is part visionary, part inspiration, with a constant need for decisiveness. Why not have the input of your team streaming in to support your flow of critical decisions? Listening is the foundational magic of great leadership. Your team has committed their hands and minds to their responsibilities, but they will only offer their hearts if they have bought into your vision and style. Counting their voice as important and truly believing that they have a valuable contribution is making a relational investment in them which will bring huge returns. Relationships are key to establishing a dynamic culture of loyalty.

Listening is not a straight up simple waltz into the heart of those you lead. The timing of when you listen is critical to the opening of their heart. It takes finesse and care to find the right moments to capture the input of others. Some respond plain and simple: You ask and they will answer. But for some, this direct approach will never work. You must find the moments and settings that are a unique match for each individual. Your job is to put in the effort to truly listen so that they know that you want to sincerely hear their input, and that you are genuinely open to their suggestions. With one person, it may be a coffee, with another it may be a memo, and with a third it may be side-by-side time together on a common project.

True listening is exploratory not analytical. And one of the greatest hindrances to listening is drawing conclusions and having opinions that color the true content being heard.

To get the full input of those that we lead, we have to find the keys to opening their hearts and receiving their genuine, authentic feedback, whether we like what we hear or whether we don’t, whether it’s said in a nice way or whether it’s a little harder to receive. All input is not valid or valuable, so we have to consider its merit and feel free to discard that which is inaccurate or off target. But if we don’t at least hear it, we obviously cannot possibly benefit from it.

Leadership listening increases the vision and the connection of the whole organization. Tap into the hearts of those that follow you, personally increase your listening skills, and generate a culture of loyalty.

Martin Flack

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