Friday, 17 June 2011

Listening - the quiet strength

A number of different incidents recently have made me aware of the importance of listening. Oddly enough, the brighter and more competent the person, the more likely they are to believe they are right and don’t need to listen to other views. Yet in so many cases, being right isn’t what gets results. What gets results is ensuring that everyone is in agreement with the plan: even if it’s not the very best possible plan.

The reason for this will be obvious to anyone who has ever worked on a team. If only one member of the team doesn’t believe in what’s being done, they can stop or slow the whole process. Yet a team where everyone is agreed is pretty much unbeatable: even if they are not as talented as the divided team.

Jim Collins’ influential book “Good to Great” has much to say on how seemingly quiet, experienced leaders are more effective than their showy, high profile counterparts. Collins lists a number of qualities of a great leader, and among them are “confronting the brutal facts” because unless you know the extent of the problem, and the reasons for why things are as they are, nothing can be changed. It is seemingly obvious, yet we can be strangely reluctant in wanting to know the truth. Humility is also listed by Collins as desirable in an effective leader.

Whilst Collins’ research was not statistically valid – I’m sure there are exceptions to every “rule” – his observations are interesting. Putting people first, being humble enough to know when you are wrong, and having the patience to listen what is actually going on, instead of what you think is going on, are foundation stones to making things happen.

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