Good Leaders Listen: 7 Tips to Lead Through Crisis

Warwick Fairfax

July 20, 2020

In times of crisis, such as the times we are now living in with the health concerns surrounding COVID-19, uncertainty about the economy and many people feeling excluded, leadership becomes even more critical.  Clear and decisive leadership would seem to be the order of the day. You feel that you need to move now — less talk, more action.  But yet when you give the call to act, nothing much seems to happen.  Why is that? Why does it seem no one is listening to you – at least not well enough to get what needs to be done accomplished?

The question you should be asking is not why your team is not listening to you, but why are you not listening to your team?  Good leaders listen.  The price for the commitment of your team, which enables bold, decisive action, is for you to listen.

Here are some tips for listening that enable better leadership, especially in crucible moments:

1. Your team must feel heard.

It is not enough to go through the motions and pretend to listen.  Your team must feel you are really listening to them and taking their input on board. They must know you really hear them and are not just paying them “ear service.”

2. Your team must feel that you care.

Your team can feel lack of authenticity a mile away. They have to believe you care not just about their opinions but about who they are.  People are whole beings, with hopes and dreams.  They do not leave these at home.  Again, they need to feel that you care about them.

3. You have to adopt someone’s input into your plans.

While you may not have to accept everyone’s input, on all subjects if month after month and project after project passes, your team makes suggestions and NO ONE has their input included in your organization’s plans, clearly they will feel you are not listening and don’t care about them or their opinions

4. People need to be heard, more than they need their opinions to be accepted.

What this means is that if people feel you genuinely hear them, they are OK if their specific opinion is not included in the final outcome.  Again, so long as someone or some people’s input is included over time.  People feel a greater need to be heard than to be right.

5. Trust your team.

If you are a good leader, you will have hired a diverse group of people with diverse skills. They will have expertise in their specific areas that you may not have. Combined, they well may have more skills and certainly knowledge than you have.  You can’t know everything, and you are not doing their jobs day to day. So a smart leader will probe and ask good questions to ensure sound plans are being enacted, but their bias will be to trust the great team that they have assembled.  The bottom line: why wouldn’t you listen to the team of all stars that you have assembled?  If you have not built such a team, why is that?  Could it be that you are too insecure to surround yourself with bright, able and driven people?

6. Be flexible.

It is great to have a plan and a direction.  But circumstances change.  The economy could change.  The market could change.  Or perhaps some members of your team could have a brilliant idea that could alter the trajectory of your plans.  Determine your course, but be willing to modify it as you receive input about the one constant you and your team face: change.

7. Be curious.

A curious person is someone who wants to learn.  A curious person is humble, because they know that they don’t have all the answers.  Great leaders are lifelong learners.  They always want to get better, to grow and to learn more.  Listening is a key way to do just that.

At the core of leading well is listening.  It’s a matter of the heart, a matter of character.  Do you really care about your team?  Do you really value their opinions?  If not, examine yourself.  Do you have an overinflated ego?  Do you feel you have nothing more to learn from others?  Do you feel that you have all the right answers?  If that is you, you have a choice.  Change!  Care more, listen more, let you and your team grow together. Or leave!  Let someone else take your place who will lead better.

To accomplish the organization’s goals, to lead well, even to lead decisively, you need a leader of your team who will really listen. The goals of your organization are too important to play around.  Either lead well and listen, or get out of the way.

Reflection

  • Are you really listening to your team’s input, or are you just going through the motions?
  • How much do you really care about your team and their lives? If you don’t, examine your heart.
  • What do you need to do today to demonstrate to your team that their opinions matter?

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