Monday, July 14, 2008

Hearing or Truly Listening?

Most leaders ask for information but not necessarily for advice. Many will listen to advice and then end up tossing it and doing their own thing. Is it a pride issue do you think? Or in some cases, do you think leaders hesitate to ask for and implement advice because they think in some people’s eyes it shows a sign of weakness?

I often work with leaders who listen intently to what’s unfolding before them and even though some of the issues are critical, respond by saying “I would have done it this way” or “Yes, I see what you mean but you should do this instead”, totally discounting all advice. They are downloading information, perhaps using bits and pieces of it to validate what they already know or feel, but they’re not doing anything with the advice they were given. Most of the time it’s unsolicited and they let you know they didn’t ask for it either, making that one of the main reasons for not taking it into account.

People will stop suggesting or giving well based advice because they know it’s falling on deaf ears. Is that leadership or dictatorship? And we all know what that kind of dynamic does to self-worth.

Is it power, politics and self-preservation?

It doesn’t matter how secure we are, don’t we all want to be on top, the kingpins, to dominate those who we feel might just know more than we do?

Ego at play; no matter how much we want the best for the organization and its people, we all need to have our egos stroked now and then, don’t you think?

Even if we think we know all there is to know, mastery comes from practicing from a position of what I call grad basic or going back to the basics from a position of having been there, done that. There is always something more to learn. You might be starting from a higher plane but just think of how much you’re going to pick up that you missed the first time ‘round.

Whose responsibility is it to encourage advisors to speak up, to bring ideas, thoughts and concepts to the table by actively engaging others with the intention of listening and learning? The leader’s or the staff, or both?

Donna Karlin

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