Leadership Is Listening


We all know that listening is a key skill in business, so much so that I never teach questioning skills unless I have taught listening first. My view is until you have learned to listen you may as well not bother asking any questions.

As human beings we all have a natural need to feel wanted and ‘included’. When decisions are made on matters that affect us without our involvement, we feel belittled, unimportant and resentful.

The two points above are common knowledge and common sense, so why do leaders and managers continue to make the mistake of implementing ‘change’ of any kind without consultation?

Here are just a few of the ‘reasons’ I have heard:

  • They wouldn’t understand
  • It would cause unease and unrest
  • It would distract them
  • They would complain

So, we make our management decisions behind closed doors and then call a meeting to implement the new procedure or ‘upgrade’, or initiative. The ‘meeting’ is the first time the team is aware of the change and then we wonder why these meetings often descend into chaos.

Here are my top tips to ensure you have really listened and more importantly to be seen to be actively listening by your teams:

  • Put any proposed change in working practices in writing well ahead of the date of suggested implementation and actively invite responses in support or with concerns.
  • Brief all your managers in advance and ensure they can respond appropriately with any questions they get.
  • If you have an issue that needs addressing hold a meeting to explain ‘WHY?’ something needs changing and invite suggestions rather than just dictate a premeditated solution.
  • Spend time with the team during normal operations, be genuinely interested in the work they do & be seen to be interested. Talk through the proposed changes and how they think it will impact on them.
  • Be prepared to compromise and actively look to compromise at least one element so that the team can see that they can be heard and do have the ability to influence.

Successful leaders are therefore those that listen and by setting the listening example their managers should also be listeners too! One word of advice though, listening is one thing but effective communication requires mutual understanding. Be sure that what you hear is actually what the other person really meant. Confirm and clarify every point to ensure there is no ambiguity.

Until next time, good listening!

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Higher Sights of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Originally published: 2 October, 2013