One of the most important Big Six® principles is developing the practice of truly listening. Many of us have been raised to believe that the more you say, and the louder you say it, the better you at leading. However, in an environment where listening is subordinated to talking, initiative is stifled and good ideas are never sought – much less considered – so opportunity is lost.
This is why listening is a prerequisite to establishing a high performing culture defined by empowerment and initiative.
When a leader sets the example and brings listening skills to an organization, team members respond in dramatic fashion. One of our favorite Army leaders who understood the value of listening was Lieutenant General (retired) Don Holder. As a thought leader in the doctrinal shift to decentralized operations and empowerment, he impacted two generations of Army leaders. General Holder’s style was to talk to the junior soldiers of a unit and ask lots of questions. He took notes and never interrupted the soldiers’ answers. Morale skyrocketed as a result and an exchange of ideas became part of the culture.
The buy in and creativity we gain from soliciting the input of others is far more valuable than what we can offer from just transmitting.
Most successful senior leaders spend at least half of their day listening to the views of their teammates. The notion may seem counterintuitive to some leaders who mistakenly believe that if they are smart enough to lead then they should be the ones doing the talking. However, leaders certainly aren’t all-knowing and sometimes they need to check their ego at the door.