Another Leadership Choice: Speak or Listen

Posted by Jack Warren, Chase Oaks Executive Pastor, on Apr 07, 2022

Another Leadership Choice: Speak or Listen

People want to hear from their leader, right?

Yes…and no.

There are times, especially in times of crisis, that people need to hear from their leaders.

However, on a day-to-day basis, people want to know that their leader is listening to them.

The best tool that leaders have is their ears, not their mouth.

A leader listens for morale, for momentum, for energy, for culture, for curiosity, for ideas, and for feedback.

This concept is counterintuitive because we have been trained in communication, public speaking, speech, and in delivering compelling talks. I don’t recall ever taking a class in listening, except when my wife would practically beg me to be quiet and listen.

Listening sounds so simple, but it is actually one of the hardest skills to develop as a leader.

Here are a few ideas to become a better listener:

1. Remember that people want to know how much you care more than how much you know.

Asking questions shows that you care. Therefore, spend time being intentional with your team members, asking how things are going and then lingering with your presence and hearing what they have to say.

2. Conduct listening sessions with employees.

Ask good questions related to how they will be best resourced, encouraged, guided, informed, etc.. Take notes in these sessions. People will thank you for months.

3. Before giving your opinion related to a problem, take time to hear people’s ideas on how to solve it.

You will quickly discover that the answers are usually in the room—and the best answers often come from an invitation for input.

4. Ask questions related to morale and motivation.

The best leaders work hard to create a culture that is fulfilling and rewarding.

5. Ask questions that you are naturally afraid to ask.

For example, ask for feedback related to your leadership. Ask people what they would change in the organization for it to function better. Ask if they feel valued and heard. If you are building trust, you will get some extremely valuable input.

6. Practice these skills at home.

If you are married, ask your spouse questions about how they are doing. Ask if they have feedback for you. If you have kids, consistently ask about their world and don’t come back with a speech, Ask if there is anything you are doing that may discourage or frustrate them. Our spouse and kids can quickly identify our blind spots. But the only way they will do so is for them to believe you want to hear what they have to say.

7. Leave your phone out of the conversation and out of the room.

This point could be a book in itself, but let’s just leave it as is.

I hope you will start being super intentional about listening to those you lead. If you do, you will naturally be super intentional in leading those same people well.

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