Monday, September 29, 2008

Are you really listening?

A lot of leaders ask for information but not necessarily for feedback. Many will listen to feedback and then end up tossing it and doing their own thing. It is something that I have found myself unconsciously doing on occasion and I want to find out exactly why so many people do this? Is it a pride issue? 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?

We 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 its 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.

If this type of behavior happens frequently, people will stop suggesting or giving well based feedback because they know it’s falling on deaf ears. They will learn to circumnavigate that leader ultimately causing a break in the team dynamic. Is that leadership or dictatorship? And we all know what that kind of dynamic does to self-worth. Is it power, politics or self-preservation? It doesn’t matter how secure we are, don’t we all want to be on top, the head honcho, 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? This is a selfish play that seems to get in the way of so much potential success. Even if we think we know all there is to know, mastery comes from practicing 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 around.

Whose responsibility is it to encourage people to give feedback, to bring ideas, thoughts and concepts to the table by actively engaging others with the intention of listening and learning? The leaders or the employees, or both?

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