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Among the highest rated Monday Moments, are those focused on listening. There’s “Which of the 4 Levels of Listening Do You…Squirrel…Use” and “When Leaders Listen, Does it Improve Workplace Communication”, but the real question is what are leaders listening to? Amid the incessant stream of communication from the office, the internet, ads on TV, phone calls, emails, and IMs, it can at times seem to be contagious chaos instead of communication. It’s time for us to narrow the scope of what leaders listen to and examine that more closely to determine what makes the best leaders so successful. Part of their success is because they listen to:
The grapevine of a workplace never breaks. It never comes undone or shrivels to non-existence. Successful leaders listen to it. They know that not every piece of gossip requires action but it does deserve to be heard. What leaders tuned into their team, workforce, and front line, are listening for are concerns, comments or feedback that may never reach the surface of a public forum. It’s the things employees wish they could say to their boss that point out below the surface problems. It’s the buzz of what is discussed in gossip that often sheds light on internal issues relevant to culture, customer needs, and future revenue opportunities or sources of exorbitant costs.
Lodged from employees inside an organization or customers outside the workforce, complaints are a pivotal source of valuable information. The most successful leaders know that inside every complaint is likely a kernel of truth and the opportunity for improvement. Leaders who wish to become more effective may wish the list the chief complaints from employees and customers and treat them as opportunities or threats in a SWOT analysis. Listening to complaints also affords the new leader a list of potential action items for immediate improvement.
Requests are similar to, but sound different than complaints. Requests come from more solution oriented team members who instead of venting their concerns with the gossip grapevine or complaining through any available medium, think through the process or problem and make a solution request. Effective leaders listen to those employees. They value the time they’ve taken to analyze the problem and request a potential solution. Effective leaders also recognize repeated requests for unresolved problems that could quickly turn into complaints or indicate an employee may be in the wrong position.
Effective leaders listen to their instincts. They hear the voices in their head and manage them well. These leaders actively listen to their head and heart and know the difference between fear and what’s real. A leader’s instincts may be soft or quite loud, depending on how much attention they’ve been given and if soft they simply need a more attentive audience and bigger stage. Listening to instincts that may not make sense at first but give guidance, direction, cautionary tales and a nagging pull to go one way or another have built billion dollar businesses, landed the perfect location, and prevented poor choices for countless leaders of note.
The list of what a leader hears is long and actually endless. The list of what the most effective leader listens to and listens for is quite succinct. Where are you in your listening skills? With what level of listening are you paying close attention to those matters of input that matter most? Much as with a computer when we used to hear the phrase, “Garbage In equals Garbage Out” ‘the same can be said for the brain of the leader. Listen to what moves you ahead and don’t let anyone hold you back.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!