Listening sounds easy, doesn't it?
Although it's critical to business success, it's actually the attribute that's often weak or the missing link.
We can be curious and complex creatures who although we hire the best and brightest, often don't listen to their point of view.
Because 'really' listening is hard.
I recently met with a client who is the VP of Sales. She was angry about her company's decision to move back to old school sales tactics. It's back to being all about the numbers, which squeezes her ability to forge relationships.
She's lost a few clients these past weeks and knows more will follow.
She'd built a loyal client base but with the current directive, doesn't have the time to listen to her clients.
And her leadership team is not listening to her.
One of my mentors, who ran a successful consulting practice for the past 30 years, has been my example of what's required to be a successful leader.
His secret? He listens. Intently and with his ego parked.
If you're like me, you'll often think you're really listening. Likely, again like me, you're not always the keen listener you imagine yourself to be.
The problem with not listening to understand (as opposed to listening to create a response) is we make assumptions about what our colleagues are thinking.
More often than not, these assumptions are flawed. We create scenarios based on our own experience, not from the perspective of wearing the shoes of the other person.
It's much easier to wear our own shoes, isn't it?
What gets in our way?
Ego often rears its ugly head.
We think we know better based on our experience. Sometimes we're even willing to go down on the sword for our beliefs.
Let's go back to my mentor. Sure, he is the leader of his consulting teams and the one who makes the final decision(s). But in his own savvy way, his decisions usually mirror what a member of his team has shared.
The value this has brought him (and to me in my own practice) is loyal teams that stay with him year after year.
These relationships are strong and powerful, and ones that are integral to his ability to sell his consulting services. He's built a team that can be relied on.
All because he really listens without bias, he's open to what bubbles up, and knows that sometimes listening is uncomfortable because he's told things he'd rather not hear.
You can try to build your company flying on your own with your employees afraid to speak up or you can create an environment where speaking up is comfortable...simply by listening.
"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens"--Jimi Hendrix