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Leadership – The profession of listening

We are living in a different time, one where life is busy, business is fast paced and leadership is moving away from hierarchical structures to a more collaborative team approach.  It is no longer possible for the boss to know how to do every task or to keep daily tabs on events occurring within the business.   Today’s business calls for its leaders to feel comfortable that they have hired talented people and to listen to what they are saying.  Today’s leader is in the profession of listening!

Richard Branson says “Any organisation’s best assets are its people. You move things along just by paying attention to what employees are saying”.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? We all think that listening is important in business and many of us would be quick to point out that we do listen to our customers and our teams, however,  true listening is far more difficult than you think.  Many business leaders are strong minded people, they have high standards and often have a pre-determined outcome in mind, prior to asking the question.  I have come to realise that many business leaders truly perceive themselves as good (or at least fair) listeners so let me ask you, truthfully, do you listen to those people on the frontline and do you listen with a completely open mind?   As business leaders we have to learn how to ask the right questions, the hard questions and honest questions in order to receive a correct and true response. 

Here’s what you gain when you start asking the right questions, and really listening to the answers:

Better performing employees People who are engaged, more focused and committed to the best possible outcome.  When employees feel listen to and attain greater ownership of their work, you will see a new level of performance as that person’s professional identity becomes synonymous with the outcome.

A more comprehensive view of company performance – If you are not asking the right questions, you won’t get the answers that you require to make your company performance excellent.  Often in hierarchical structures people will only tell you the good news when what you really need to hear about are the areas that don’t work so well.  Remember, you hired intelligent, experienced people that are working on the coal face, every single day.  They are a fantastic resource for you if you choose to listen.

A stronger more flexible business – It’s a competitive world out there and you need ideas, solutions, and people able to implement any new initiative, with a professional integrity that aligns with your company values. As leaders, confidence in your team is enhanced when the entire team is working to a collaborative model.

A better company culture – Engaged, focused and committed employees are happier people.  They feel more valued, more heard and more able to contribute to the overall growth and success of the company.  The company culture will be positive and healthy as a result.

As a leader, a new approach to listening is required.  Take the opportunity to drop into casual office chatter more often, in addition to the more formal meetings and one-to-one reviews,  ask questions and be open to suggestions, so that your team feels comfortable giving honest feedback.  Modern leadership is all about listening, give it a go and watch your business flourish.

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