Listening: The skill that separates outstanding leaders from the rest

Brilliant problem solvers often go straight to the problem. The project is off the rails, so let’s get the team member responsible to explain what went wrong. But it would help to do some listening and take an interest in the team member before launching into problem-solving mode.

Steven Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It’s habit no. 5 in his timeless book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In practice, that means taking a genuine interest in the other person. And if you ask how they are going, you have to be interested in the answer!

It is a skill leaders can learn if they are willing. Seeking first to understand means not just listening to what people say but also what it’s like to walk in their shoes. We all enjoy being on the receiving end of someone listening to us like we matter. It is a skill that separates outstanding leaders from the rest.

If you are a technical problem-solver transitioning into leadership, it is a critical part of your reinvention process. You want to reinvent your problem-solving ability from solving technical problems to how to get the best from people.

Zenger Folkman research confirms effective listening has a significant payoff not just at work but in life in general. Here are eight rewards of good listening they identified:

1️⃣ More important and compelling questions.

2️⃣ Relationships that benefit your life and work.

3️⃣ An established foundation of reciprocal trust.

4️⃣ Feedback that flows frequently and freely.

5️⃣ Natural opportunities for continued development.

6️⃣ A significant increase in collaboration.

7️⃣ Helping others become seen and heard.

8️⃣ Recognising extraordinary performance.

Zenger Folkman suggests, ‘Leaders who are skilled at listening not only end up being much more effective leaders but also much more appreciated by friends, partners, and colleagues.’

🙋 How do leaders learn to listen to understand in your experience? 🙋‍♀️

Best regards, Brian