As leaders we often feel that we have to know it all, do it all, have all the answers, etc. The
pressure to constantly be everywhere and know all things, have all the right answers at hand is invigorating for some, and daunting for others.
What if this year, however you began with a different mindset? One that gives yourself permission to not have all the answers in your back pocket or know all things. In fact, what if you started this year out with your employees, leadership teams, managers, and executives by asking questions and listening. In other words, not being quick to offer solutions, directives or fixes of any kind. Just asking questions, listening and taking some time to process it all.
Listening is a lost art in the busyness of our culture in general but especially in top down hierarchical cultures that exists in many companies. We advance up the ladder until we receive the coveted place of top executive, and rarely are we asked to demonstrate our competence in the art of truly listening.
And yet, asking good questions and truly listening is the key to employee engagement. It provides a significant advantage to actually listen to the people around us. It is they who are in the trenches. It is front line staff in particular that has direct contact with your customers or clients. No customers? No company. They know first hand what is working and what is not.
Listening is different than “hearing”. Hearing is the function our ears are designed to perform. Hearing is the sound of a child crying, or the wind sweeping past us. Listening – actively listening- is a whole different experience. Listening involves being present and not being on your phone while someone else is talking or having your mind in three other places.
By the way, actively listening is a great way to really connect with the people in your family as well. Try looking eye ball to eye ball with the person who is speaking to you. Something magical happens when we face people and look in their eyes, and truly listen. Only then can we pick up and engage with the nuances of their full message.
Communication is words, yet so much more is body language, tone and facial expression. We can’t take in the whole message of another human in an interaction if we are hearing with one ear, while our eyes, mind and heart are somewhere else.
What if today, you slow down even a little. Consider who needs to have you fully present, where and when. Who do you need to engage with and ask good questions and really listen to what they are telling you. What information ought you pay attention to rather than steamrolling with your usual or typical answers that you toss at people as you are whizzing by them?
Let’s slow down long enough to remind ourselves that especially in these turbulent times people need connection points in their day, both at home and at work. People need to feel heard, and you need their thoughts, ideas and problem solving abilities.
The advantage you have as a leader, is you have the opportunity to listen to what your people are really telling you and do something meaningful and productive with what you are learning.
It is the companies that listen and act on the information that they glean that allows for creating more sustainability and profitability. Sometimes it is the person you would have least thought of that has the best ideas to move your business forward.
And the best part, you can start each work day in a different mindset of “today I will see what I can learn from my people, my customers, and all the people we serve rather than having to be the “know it all.”