“When you ask people about the best leader they ever had, one quality is always mentioned – they are good listeners. Test the power of listening for yourself by taking time to listen and focus on others.” Ken Blanchard
Have you ever felt as if your supervisors were listening but didn’t hear a word you said? Ah, then I must have been your manager at some point in the past! Well, at least I could have. In all honesty, this has been one of my greatest leadership challenges. This is a discipline I deliberately pursue. At times, I think everything I have to say is so very urgent – and I mean EVERYTHING! After all, I don’t have time to listen; I have important tasks to complete, deadlines to meet and emails to write! I sometimes get so preoccupied with my own thoughts and so focused handing orders and direction out – that I miss out. Getting too busy to hear what others on my team have to say results in missed opportunities in capturing the full vision and potential of my team members and making true connections and relationships with them.
The truth is – I don’t learn unless I listen. Listening lets people know they are important. Asking questions makes them feel as though their opinions count. “Shutting up” enables us to discover diverse points of view from others. Authentically, genuinely and earnestly becoming immensely interested is what my team has to say, both personally and professionally, allows me to grow and develop into a mature and effective leader.
In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith writes, “80% of our success in learning from other people is based upon how well we listen. In other words, success or failure is determined before we do anything.”
Goldsmith calls listening the one skill that separates the great from the near-great. So, what are the stories your key players are sharing? What creative ideas are flowing from their sudden brainstorms? What barriers are preventing you from creating authentic relationships? Learning about their likes, philosophy, and daily walk, enables you to assemble fellowship amongst your team. It not only elevates the growth and development of the people in your organization; it also forms unwavering community in the work place.
Put people before paper. In other words, drop what you’re doing and take a few minutes to spark the conversation, listen to the funny story, the family crisis, the creative burst of energy and create an atmosphere open to others’ ideals. For just a few deliberate moments, forget the responsibilities on your to-do list, and open your ears to people’s lives, ideas, and discerning words of wisdom.
As Christians, we’ve been taught to listen to God. But I once read a devotion that teaches that Jesus is known as “The Listener” because He invites us to share with him our prayers, our requests, our hopes and our dreams. After all, often before Jesus responds, He first listens to our heart. Before we respond to our team players, first we need to listen to their thoughts about anything – about everything. So I challenge you to ask yourself are your team players screaming, “Can you hear me now?”