No one ever promised that managing self would be easy. This is definitely no exception.
We have heard it said many times, “God gave you one mouth and two ears so you can listen twice as much as you talk.” That was one my grandmother liked to say.
While I’m not sure that was actually God’s intent, there is something to that saying. We should be better at listening than we are at talking. My grandfather put it to me like this, “If you listen more than you talk, people will think you are really wise whether you are or not.”
As leaders we can easily fall into the trap of thinking we are supposed to be the ones with the answers and giving the directives. That’s not leadership, that’s being bossy. Good leaders listen well to those around them. Good leaders know how to leverage the synergy of knowledge that exists within the whole. Good leaders know that the best people to have on the team are ones with ideas and creativity and insight.
Even the best leaders have blindspots. Even the most aware miss things. The refusal to listen to others only makes this worse. It is not weakness to listen to what everyone else already knows. It is not strength to block others out and lead unilaterally.
There are exceptions, but for the vast majority of people and situations, those on the team want to be there and want to see the whole succeed. People don’t generally like to be a part of something that fails. They want to experience victory. They look forward to enjoying successful results. As a member of the team or staff, they see and know things that can help the whole. The most effective teams and organizations are the ones where those involved know they are valued and can share their ideas and insights and not be instantly shot down.
As a younger man, I had a very bad habit. That habit affected every relationship I had. It showed itself in every conversation. I have also found it is not that uncommon. This is habit is formulating response and what I am going to say while the other person is talking. The problem with this is I never truly hear all that they are saying. I am not focused on them and what they are communicating because I am too worried about what I have to say. We aren’t listening when we are just trying to get our words in.
When I counsel couples, one of the things we work on is effective and healthy communication. a big part of this is listening to what the other is saying and understand it before reacting.
In leadership, this is also a bad habit. When people don’t feel heard, they don’t feel valued and eventually they give up or leave.
No leader has it all together. No leader knows everything that is needed for the success of the organization. That is why others are there, to jointly move toward success and significance. A listening leader is secure enough to know that and let others give input.
Of course, not every idea is a good one. Not every thought or opinion needs to followed. There are times the leader has to set the agenda and direction with a decision. The team will whole heartedly and loyally follow when they know that their input was heard and they have value.
A good leader listens and listens well.