***This article is inspired by chapter 6 of John C. Maxwell’s book Leadership Gold –
“The Best Leaders Are Listeners.”***
“Can you hear me now?”
This question became very popular with Verizon mobile phone commercials several years ago. It was a simple question that many of us ask when we’re in a spotty signal zone. Verizon capitalized on it to promote its expanding coverage.
Beyond a funny commercial, this is a question that followers are asking of their leaders regularly. Most of the time it’s internal, though. People want to be heard. Being heard makes them feel valued. If you want to quickly devalue someone, ignore them. Pretend they’re not talking or not in the room.
Author and pastor Andy Stanley once taught five powerful words that leaders should say regularly – “How can I help you?” When you ask questions like this one and then truly listen, you are able to better serve your followers, as well as, gain greater buy-in and credibility.
Are you a good listener?
Or are you a person who is thinking about your rebuttal while the other person is talking?
If you want to become a better leader, become a better listener.
In chapter 6 of Leadership Gold, John Maxwell shares 5 reasons why good listeners are more effective leaders:
1 – Understanding people precedes leading them.
If you don’t listen, you will lack a deeper understanding of your followers. To lead best, listen more. Ask more questions about who they are, not just about what they do. As Stephen R. Covey taught in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
2 – Listening is the best way to learn.
The best way to discover challenges and opportunities is by asking questions and listening. When you choose to listen more than speak, you can learn about the goals, needs, and challenges that your team is facing. You can also become wiser as you realize you’re not always the smartest person in the room. You simply need to bring the smartest people together.
3 – Listening can keep problems from escalating.
Many times people simply want to be heard. They don’t need you to fix their problems. They may just need to vent and process their thoughts out loud. I’ve heard it said that even if a person just speaks to a lamp post they can often feel better. When leaders listen, problems can be kept at a minimum or solved much more easily. Sometimes just being a sounding board allows your followers to come up with their own answers.
4 – Listening establishes trust.
When you listen, you show your followers that you care about them. Concern for their wellbeing establishes trust. When they feel heard, they begin to value you more in return. Trust is the foundation of leadership. Without it, you may have a title but you won’t necessarily have authority.
5 – Listening can improve the organization.
As you listen, you will hear about problems and opportunities more frequently. As you rise in leadership, it becomes more difficult to hear deeply into the organization. You will need to depend on others to be your ears. When you listen to your followers, you will become more aware of what is going on throughout the organization. Then you will have the opportunity to make things better from your position.
Listening is not always an easy task. In fact, it can be the most difficult task of leaders. People look to you for answers, but the best leaders understand that they should ask insightful, clarifying questions before giving an answer. The more information you have before making a decision, the better.
Make the choice today to focus more on listening than speaking. When you feel the temptation to speak up, take a deep breath and count to 10 so you give the other person more time to share.
You can become a better listener.
I believe in you.
Until next time…make today GREAT!
***If you need help developing a personal growth plan or implementing a leadership development program for your team, please contact me. I’d love to talk with you to determine how I can help!