It never fails to confuse me how executives speak almost always, and on every subject. Far too many executives do not listen, much less listen effectively. If one is to believe any of the news items playing out in the media, it is plain many in leadership positions will simply say anything and expect everyone to believe it.
I have three pieces of advice for you future top level executives. Stop talking, no one hears you. Learn to listen with your eyes, your subordinates do. Do not believe anyone will remember you for your dynamic way with words, your subordinates will only remember how you made them feel.
Stop talking, this is difficult. Many executives love the sound of their own voice.The reality is no one hears you. It is your actions that matter. Telling subordinates that the organization values integrity, as an example, and the executives notoriously turn in travel claims with unacceptable claims is seen. Far too many believe that giving orders is the mark of being a leader. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the executive, the leaders at every level that live what they say, walk the talk, is the mark of a leader. The very best executives are exemplars to those they supervise.
Trust me, subordinates see you when you think no one is looking.
Learn to Listen
Learn to listen with your eyes. There is much advice about developing listening skills, rephrase, and repeat; ask questions; look interested and so on. All good advice. Now, that you have politely and expertly executed all the listening techniques, what do you know about the person you were speaking with? There are many who understand the active listening techniques and are waiting to rephrase giving the impression they have heard the one speaking. Odds are they have not heard a word.
Please, do not fall into the trap of believing everything you have heard. When you really want to hear learn to listen with your eyes. See what they are doing.
What a person does speaks volumes and speaks loudly. You will learn far more by watching a persons actions. You will come to know the people who work with and for you at a new level. You will come to understand when they are either having a good or not so good day. Are they up to the challenge of the moment or not. Having this level of understanding will set you apart as a leader and subordinates will hold you in high esteem as an executive that cares about their wellbeing as members of a team vice robots performing a task.
How Do They Feel
One of the greatest pieces of advice I can give any executive desiring to sharpen their leadership skills is this: No one will remember what you say. Few will remember your accomplishments. Everyone will remember how you made them feel.
Consider this, you think of yourself as an enlightened executive. You are mindful of being an exemplar for those you supervise. You listen intently and you are good at listening with your eyes. One of your subordinates feels confident enough to come to you with an idea that he believes will significantly improve the organization. Your response–chastise and belittle the effort. You and your enlightened leadership skills have just crushed the spirits of the employee. The employee will never bring another idea to you. Moreover, the feeling accompanying the moment will never be forgotten.
I think many of us can remember a similar feeling at some point in our career. One of my mentors often speaks of the company that celebrates with an award the best idea that didn’t work. Imagine how encouraged the winner of such an award can be.
What your subordinates will remember most is how you made them feel.
My advice today for all in executive positions is simple. Be the model, the exemplar, for others to follow–stop talking. Learn by listening with your eyes. No one will remember your words or accomplishments; they will only remember how you made them feel. This advice is so simple most will disregard it. After all it is free advice, and as the old saying goes, advice is worth what you pay for it.