One of the most important functions of a leader is to develop other leaders. The notion of developing people suggests that we will invest resources for training, skill enhancement and other types of continuing education.
One of the most important investments that we should make as leaders is to invest part of ourselves into our team members. We do this by mentoring, coaching, encouraging, affirming and challenging those around us.
The first and single most important commitment we should make when investing in others is to listen to them. That’s where a lot of leaders fall short. We live in a culture where people love to talk. We love to hear ourselves speak. We want others to hear us express our opinions and feelings.
Talking is easy. Listening is hard work. Listening takes time. Listening can be frustrating and often times messy. However, when you listen to someone, you are making a conscious decision to invest in that person and they know it.
Listening is an investment. It takes time for a payback. I would argue there is a significant return on that investment in the form of a more motivated work force, higher productivity and profitability, more effective problem solving and access to new and better ideas. You’ll also realize a higher level of professional satisfaction because people around you will respect you as a leader they know genuinely cares about them. Here are a couple of listening strategies that will develop your skills and those of your team member:
- Instead of giving answers, ask questions. When team member asks how to approach a certain issue, the simple and fastest thing to do is to tell them what to do. By asking questions, we encourage people to develop their problem solving skills. By encouraging others to develop their own answers, you are helping them develop their skills and building their confidence. In time, you will find this approach becomes part of your culture, which benefits everyone.
- Be the power at the back of the room. Let others run the meeting. Instead of being the first to comment on most issues, let the rest of the team lead the process. This is a tough one for a lot of leaders who are used to taking charge, setting the direction and expecting others to follow. Again, if your role is to support others, ask questions and encourage your team members to develop the action plan, the performance of the entire team improves, and you will free up more of your time for other strategic activities.
I believe the answer to every question, concern and challenge in organizations can be found within the people in that organization. In order to discover those answers, leaders must invest precious time into utilizing their listening skills and developing the talent of those around them.
Make a commitment today to strengthen your own listening skills and those of your valuable team members.