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What If You Could Lead Better by Listening Better?

Any student of management will tell you that it’s stupid to ignore your staff’s feedback — not to mention impolite, inefficient, and often directly and obviously damaging. You don’t necessarily have to act on staff input or even agree with it, but it’s crucial to hear people out. Yet even managers who know this often turn a deaf ear — or a tin ear — to their staffs.

It’s tough to be a manager because the pressure of delivering on the production requirements of the job is often coupled with the annoying, frustrating, never ceasing caviling of team members who can’t see what you see and don’t have the perspective you have — and quite possibly wouldn’t know what to do with it if they did.

But when you don’t listen, your team can end up repeating past mistakes — and often with even worse consequences. Favorite employees can become disaffected and disgruntled, burn out, and leave as soon as they think they can get something better. And less favorite employees typically continue just as they are, without improvement, just walking in place. Productivity and engagement diminish.

Are you responding to your team? Are you noticing what’s going on with everyone on your staff?

Before You Announce Your Open Door, Check for Your Open Mind

We all sit on one side of the desk or the other at different times in our various relationships. As a manager, it’s important to be able to understand both sides all the time — to see what you see, and what the team sees. So how can you manage yourself so that you can hear what needs to be heard and work successfully with your staff?

You’re not going to change them — they are who they are. There’s no value in telling them to be different. In fact, you may have tried that already, and been disappointed.

But what if you stopped thinking of yourself as The Sole Decider or The Force or The Beleaguered and Put Upon and instead saw yourself as The Listener and Learner? What could and would you do differently then? What new ideas might you try? What better approaches might you take?

Listen to your team — they’ve been trying to tell you.

In the completion of this series next week, we’ll look at how you can develop a better relationship and better communication with the staff that is trying to help you — if you’re willing to listen.

Onward and upward,


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2 thoughts on “What If You Could Lead Better by Listening Better?

  1. Liz,
    This is always an important topic. It has more heat around it these day given the difficult last several years businesses of all sizes endured. In tough and stressful times the temptation to “be heads down” and “just do your work” can lead to poor decisions, misleading leaders to draw false conclusions about their staff. And you capture this perfectly in the post.

    Nice one, Liz.

  2. Shawn, you’re so right — the typical “all business” attitude about “just doing the work” has intensified during the difficult, recent past. It’s almost as if managers can’t bear to know how people feel about their work (and about them!) because they don’t see how they can do anything to improve conditions. Horrible “failure spirals” occur. Such a difference can be made with a little compassion, a little candor, a little courage — a different kind of Vitamin C booster pack! Thanks so much for your comment.

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