We live in a very uncertain time. No one can predict what the future will be like nor even when the future will be different. The response towards Covid-19 and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has shown leaders everywhere the necessity of listening. Listening to experts. Listening to data. Listening to the people.
From politics to business, listening will be a skill that will separate true leaders from people simply in positions of power. And if the saying is true, that “people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses,” then bosses, especially corporate executives, will need to master the art and skill of listening.
In the workplace, turnover continues to be a major area of loss for companies. It leads to:
- a weak company culture
- fewer loyal and faithful workers
- the loss of insight and wisdom that comes only from front lines experience
- the time that could have been spent on other projects, spent on searching and training someone new
- new people that are less productive, having to learn and navigate the company culture
- trust and communication that needs to be developed between the new person and the rest of the team
As people feel more uncertain and anxious, bosses will need to learn the art of listening to their employees. If you are convinced on the necessity and benefit of listening, here are the 4 A’s to A+ listening
Ask 2 questions— what do you think and how do you feel?
As a person of power, it is your job in the conversation to lead it. Whoever you are talking to most likely will not be so quick to share or so forthcoming. You will need to ask good questions and lots of them, to bring out the person’s thoughts and feelings.
So when you engage with them, ask them what they think about something or how they feel about it.
Avoid as much as possible using “why.” Although it does not always, using the word “why” can come across easily as accusatory or judgmental.
Rather than asking “why do you think like this?” The better question is, “What made you come to this idea?”
Admit when you’re wrong and when you don’t know
If there’s one thing everyone appreciates about their leaders, its humility— the ability to admit that they’re human. Whether or not you admit your mistakes or lack of knowledge, people will think what they want. They will think you made the wrong choice or don’t’ know what you’re doing whether you express it or not.
At times, the cost of not admitting your humanity is greater than the cost of admitting it. When leaders admit their mistakes or their lack of knowledge, they earn their people’s respect and loyalty. Their people will recognize them as someone who sees things as they are and isn’t afraid to call it.
The risk of not saying anything is that your people will lose their trust in and respect for you, and leave you when they can.
Avoid giving your opinion
Unless it is in complete agreement with something they said, it is better to say nothing that something. People who don’t feel heard are extra sensitive to feeling not heard. It may seem like you’re simply engaging in conversation, but it can appear or feel like you are asserting your authority and power.
To foster greater rapport with those you work with, keep your opinions for another time.
Answer their questions
The only time you can give your opinion is when someone asks you for an answer. In certain cases, they may want to know your opinion. In other cases, they may be confused about something in the company and want to understand it.
Your gut reaction may be to wonder how their knowledge of what you think about something or them understanding something benefits you, the company, or them— resist that. They may genuinely simply want to get to know you or understand better the organization to which they are giving the majority of their waking hours. Unless it’s a company secret, answer their questions.
Listening as Leadership
All of us, no matter who we are, have experienced not being listened to. Sometimes it can make us do things. Often, it can make us do nothing.
In a time when people are unsure and anxious about their future, listening can be one of the greatest tools in your toolbox in retaining talent and growing your business. More than possibly ever, the people we work with are the most valuable resource we have. And one of the easiest and most efficient ways we can leverage them is to listen to them. By listening, you both simultaneously empower and raise the performance of the person and additionally gain vital information into your company.
If you are a leader of an organization, not giving the time and space necessary to listen to someone, may cost you more in the long run than the 30-40 minutes you spent listening.
The question right now isn’t “can I afford to listen to others at this time?” but rather, “can I afford not to listen at this time?”
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