Esther Groves, Senior Consultant
“Just being available and attentive is a great way to use listening as a management tool. Some employees will come in, talk for twenty minutes, and leave having solved their problems entirely by themselves." — Nicholas V. Luppa
Ask any group of leaders to think of someone they admire – someone who has been a mentor to them. Then ask what that person did that was most meaningful and helpful. “Listening” frequently tops the list.
And yet those same leaders will complain bitterly about a team member who isn’t on board – who acts in passive aggressive ways and causes frustration for the entire team.
Remarkably, once they open their ears and listen, they discover someone waiting to be heard.
If listening is so highly valued, why don’t leaders do it more often? Here are some excuses – see if any of them resonate with you:
- “I’m too busy. If I have to wait for every one on my team to get around to making a point, we’ll never get anything done around here.”
- “I’m afraid of what I’ll hear. Someone might make a suggestion and things will spiral out of control.”
- “No one but me has all the facts. I know what needs to be done and it would be easier if we just do it.”
- “I already know what this person will say. We’ve had this conversation many times.”
And yet we know, not only from our own experiences with mentors and leaders but also from the leadership literature, that people who feel heard and valued are much more likely to contribute value to the team and the organization.
So, what are the benefits when people feel they have been heard?
- Loyalty: See my note about the most admired mentors and leaders who are great listeners. People will follow them anywhere and work hard for them.
- Motivation: People are energized when they feel they’ve contributed something meaningful to the process.
- Problem-solving: See the quote by Nicholas Luppa at the top of the article. People often have a solution that needs to bubble to the surface.
- Retention: When people feel valued, they are more likely to stick around rather than pack up their intellectual capital and take it elsewhere (where people listen to them).
- Strong relationships: The more listening, the more accumulated trust, and the easier it gets the next time around. I Promise!