Why Listening Can Save Your Leadership

medium_8168084988 My eldest daughter started to talk when she was very young. At eighteen months, she was already stringing together some simple sentences. By the time she was two-and-a-half years, animated conversations with her became a common feature in our home.

One day, I arrived home after a particularly hard day at the office. I felt like a sadistic imp was slowly chipping away in my skull brain cell by brain cell. My body felt like it had been dragged behind a pickup track for miles. That was the day our pretty little princess was at her best. As I plonked my weary self on the nearest sofa, she planted herself right in front of me.

“Daddy, let me tell you,” she began. All I could hear was an echo as my dull mind tried to process what she was saying. In desperation, I resorted to mumble a few monosyllables back at her. I was shaken out of my delirium by her sharp retort: “I am talking to you and you are not listening!”

A few years after this incident, I got another lesson on why listening could be the one of the most important things that can amplify my leadership. I happened to be in a meeting with decision-makers as we deliberated on the direction of our institution. There were a few concerns around leadership that were stalling the progress, influence and impact of our work.

Our leader sought our opinions on what needed to be done. There was an uneasy silence as everyone suddenly turned to their and busily scratched at their notepads. Out of the blue, some important thoughts had to be written down. Finally, with a clearing of their throat, one member got the ball rolling. However, everyone skirted around the real issue…

Then I decided to speak up: “Unless we transition some people into other positions and transition others out of the organization, we are not going to see any growth or impact with our work.” You did not need a stethoscope to listen to any of their heart-beats! The silence was palpable… We proceeded with the rest of the agenda and no action was taken to tackle the situation that had rendered the institution ineffective.

“The decision is ours as to whether we will do what we can where we are.” ~John C. Maxwell

Needless to say, there were numerous changes inside a year. Some people transitioned from where they were to other positions. Others were forced to transition from the organization all together. The most effective way that your leadership can thrive is when you have your finger on your followers’ pulse. This is especially important when they speak out.

When my daughter spoke out, I stopped all I was doing and actively listened and engaged her in conversation. She was trying to narrate to me her day’s exploits. To a toddler, a day could feel to be as long as a decade. Everything they do is a new discovery. It is important. Amazingly, after we were done with our conversation, my fatigue had lifted. I had connected with my ‘follower’, and at the same time, instilled in her some guidance and wisdom for life.

In the case of the leader at the round-table, I wonder what the outcome would have been if they could rise above their position. In my last blog post Is Listening Becoming A Lost Art?, I shared with you how turning off the noise significantly helps you to listen better. It brings you down from your lofty castle and into the reality of where magic happens.

From today, I challenge you to get into the habit of doing three things: Pause, Listen and Act. When these three habits are out of sync or not recognized at all, the outcome can be catastrophic to you, the organization or your followers.

Which of these three are you struggling with today? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

photo credit: Columbiantony via photopin cc

Certified Professional Coach, Communication Specialist & Author

I help motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy.