Leaders Listen

How do leaders and professionals know whom to listen to and when and what to do with what they hear? Companies and careers can soar or be ruined over this. Some leaders and professionals waste time and resources listening to the wrong people and trying to take action on non-issues.

First, surround yourself with truth tellers and a diverse team so they supply strengths and perspectives you lack.

Secondly, sustain a culture where decisions are data-driven. Members of the team know to come to you if they cannot solve it or it merits your leadership level but to always bring a full evidentiary analysis and options for successful solutions.

Thirdly, utilize a wide range of informational sources both formal and informal, a real time dashboard of performance metrics, and cultivate a large intelligence network across the organization, communities you serve, and industry so you continuously get actionable data, feedback, and advice. Get out of the office – do time in the field.

Both valuable and worthless ideas and feedback can come from anyone anywhere inside or outside the organization. You need to know what deserves attention and action and what does not.

Consider the point not the speaker. De-personalize the issue. Bad people can have good ideas. Good people can have bad ideas. Evaluate each point on its own merits applying logic, ethics, and evidence.

However, you will also hear from those who don’t intend to inform or help but just hurt. They don’t supply useful information or actionable solutions – it’s just the joy for them of making a personal attack.

Hurting people hurt others. Try to have empathy and understanding as to why I am hearing this beyond the specific value of the point. Never take it personally but never allow them to bully or beat up your team. Everyone receives professionalism but must also conduct themselves properly too.

Determine if a problem exists, confirm causes, and implement solutions if needed.

Most of those you lead, work with, and serve are likely to be good people with helpful insights. They will offer great ideas if you listen carefully and continuously to them. You may need to do it somewhat differently but it’s still a winner.

A CEO once told me twenty-nine years ago, “The key to this job is knowing who to listen to.” It’s true for all positions.

I would add this: always seek all the information you need, encourage all the ideas you can get, professionally listen, carefully evaluate, don’t empower the toxic, reward the innovators, and take action when you should. Always know the best ideas can from anyone anywhere as long as you welcome and respond the right way to them.

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