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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

5 Reasons real leaders must listen and understand

Make sure you did not turn off your hearing or tuneout your team!

Many years ago, a one of my relatives wore an older version of hearing aids.  The device reminds one of the pocket radios with wired earphones.   This person had been married for more than 60 years.  He was fun to be around and always had a great sense of humor.  His wife would often start those discussions that seemed to be more like nagging.  At this point, you would see him reach in his pocket and pull out the receiver for the hearing aid and TURN IT OFF!  In an instant there was no more nagging, even though the discussion on her end continued.  The smile on his face said it all!

The funny thing is that many managers have a way of tuning out without turning off the volume.  They hear sounds but do not listen. If they hear the words, they may fail to understand.  Even if they understood and heard the issues, they failed to communicate with the team.  Failure to listen to your team, understand their issues, and engage in meaningful dialogue has potential to enhance potential problems.  A few reasons for this are below:

1.      Lack of trust:  Your team needs to believe in your abilities and understand the motives.  The goal is the alignment of ideas, directions, and activities.  Trust is an important part of the process.  Your team must feel you are worth following and not leading them over a cliff.  You cannot lead if they will not follow: i.e., all you can do is dictate.  They will never follow someone they fail to trust.  Why should they ever follow you if you never listen to them, communicate with them, and consider their ideas?

2.      Poor commutation:   Communication with the team must be clear and concise.  They must understand the goals of any project.  A team that understands the programs and directions may see things you miss. Poor communications and lack of trust among the team, ensures they will NEVER provide any ideas or bring up potential issues. 

3.      Error creation:  Missing major flaws or errors in design of programs or products can be deadly.  Customers fail to return if the products do not work properly the first time or if they are overly complex.   Discussions with your team may identify flaws or logic problems.  It is critical to your business to identify these issues early and fix them before it is too late.

4.      Milestone misses or cost overruns:  You spend lots of time raising money to build the business.  You promise to meet certain milestones on time and within budget.  Does your team agree with these?  Returning to investors to say you missed these key objectives is a terrible discussion to have and the reasons generally do not matter! Your team’s involvement and concurrence with these parameters ensure they will do everything they can to meet the goals.  They know the company must look good to the investors.

5.      All alone:  This is an important point, there is no I in TEAM.  You may not understand the true problems because your experience in the area is limited.  Ignoring your limited understanding and not engaging the team so you can learn is a recipe for failure.  Failure to communicate and develop trust will leave you all alone.  Some people may like being alone for a while, but you may become one of the real reasons for failure of the business.  Try explaining that away with your investors!