I hear you: Listening in to great leadership

I hear you Listening in to great leadership

by John Eades


There are many important things leaders must do to improve the performance of their teams in 2020.

One of them, without question, is psychological safety.

Director of People Analytics at Google, Abeer Dubey and People Analytics Manager, Julia Rozovsky led a two-year study called Project Aristotle.

This evaluated 180 Google teams, conducted 200-plus interviews and analyzed more than 250 different team attributes.

Ms. Rozovsky outlined the five key characteristics of enhanced teams, and one of the most important was psychological safety.

There are many ways for you to create psychological safety, but one of the best ways is to be an effective listener.

Of all of the great leaders I have studied, I have yet to find one who isn’t an effective listener.

A great example of this is Chief Executive of Lippert Components, Jason Lippert.

He holds regular ‘listening sessions’ at different company plants to ensure his executive team not only knows what his people need but can look for ways to provide it.

Mr. Lippert’s actions are brilliant because as an author, Andy Stanley said: “leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people with nothing helpful to say.”

Which begs the question, if listening is so essential, why are so many of us bad at it?

The answer is complicated, but it boils down to not understanding the difference between hearing and listening.

A mentor of mine always told me that hearing is through the ears but listening is through the mind.

In short, hearing is an ability, listening is a skill.

You have to make a choice to listen to the ideas and perspectives of others instead of just hearing them.

When you do this, you will have found one of the keys to leadership.

How well you listen determines how well you connect, and the connection is the key to leadership.

If you struggle to listen, here are a few tips to help you develop the skill.

Anchor Yourself: You can’t listen until you are anchored into a conversation, so put away your phone or any distractions.

If, for some reason, that isn’t possible because of other priorities, be honest and remind yourself you need to come back to this when you are able to anchor yourself.

Consider What Others Are Saying: There is too much going on in today’s business environment for a leader to know it all.

Ensure that when others are providing ideas, you are truly considering what they are saying and not thinking about how you are going to respond.

Prove You Listened: While the implementation of every idea isn’t possible, testing the idea or discussing it in more detail rather than disregarding it is a great sign you listened.

A question to ponder: If I asked your spouse whether you were a great listener, what would they say?


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