Want to be a great leader? Then start listening.

Posted on May 28, 2011

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Listening is one of the most important qualities one can have. It is clearly fundamental when trying to sell a product – be it a physical item or a service you are providing for a company – but it is also vital when leading a team. I am sure there are managers and team leaders out there who think that the only way to get things done is to concentrate on telling your team what you want, but this won’t make you very popular and in many cases won’t achieve the best possible results. Some might argue that listening is a sign of weakness as it suggests the leader isn’t able to think for himself or is unsure about making a decision, however, I believe listening can be of great help when leading and managing a SUCCESSFUL team and can be used effectively in a number of ways:

TO HELP YOUR PRODUCTIVITY OR PLANNING: you might be a team leader or a project manager but you are not a super hero – even if you like to think you are – which makes it impossible for you to know and see everything. If you listen to your team they might be able to present you with some ideas and solutions you haven’t thought of or they might point out a risk that you hadn’t foreseen. They will only do so if they feel confident they can speak up to someone who will listen and value their opinion.

TO GET THE MOST OUT OF PEOPLE: People are motivated by different things in life, they also work in different ways – some are motivated purely by money, others want to make a difference, some might prefer to do a lot of travelling, while others prefer a routine that rarely changes. You need to listen in order to find out what makes each member of your team tick as this will enable you to meet their individual needs and get the best out of them. They will appreciate this and be more likely to go the extra mile to support you.

TO IMPROVE YOUR ABILITY TO NEGOTIATE AND INFLUENCE: The good thing about being a manager is that you can listen to what your team members say, but in the end, the final decision is yours. This means you can practice your negotiation skills without risking losing much; think of it as a game. Listening to your team members can help you understand their points of view which will enable you to negotiate with them until, hopefully, they understand and support what you are proposing. As you grow in confidence as a negotiator you will be able to better influence all your stakeholders (clients, contractors, sponsors etc. as well as team members) more effectively, an ability that is vital when the final say isn’t yours (unlike when honing your skills with your team when the final decision is yours). 

TO BOOST TEAM MORAL: OK, you are the team leader/manager, and if you didn’t know more than anyone there you would not hold this position, so, whatever you decide they should shut up and listen, right?  Possibly, but instead of just informing people of your decision you should ask for their opinion for the sake of boosting team morale. You can say “I feel as this is the best decision because of this and that, what do you think?” If they agree that is great and they will feel as if they have helped you to decide. If they don’t, you can explain your reasons as to why you think yours is the best option. Either way they will appreciate the fact that you took the time to listen and explain your point of view and the reasons for your decision.  They are likely to feel appreciated and an important part of the team…..that improves team moral which, in return, should make your life easier and improve team output.


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