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How to Be a Better Leader

Posted by | December 16, 2014 | Leadership, Workplace

Via LinkedIn : A CEO of a new local startup recently reached out to me. After introductions, he described his business model, discussed his product, customers, and current business situation. I asked about what he felt his biggest challenges were and how the market was engaging with his sales pitch. He mentioned he was interested in additional investment.

Without missing a beat he focused back on his pitch, value, and desire for investment — only slightly acknowledging my questions. The gentleman was clearly a sharp person, though also clearly didn’t really listen to what I was saying.

He didn’t REALLY listen.

You Experience It Daily

How many times have you been at a meeting and provided a recommendation, thought, or solution only to have it seem like no one even heard you? Have you had a discussion with your boss and made a suggestion only to have him solely focus on what he wanted to do? Has someone made a sales pitch but didn’t listen to what your problems really were?

We all want to advocate for our own position, but without understanding others input / thoughts / needs / recommendations we’re losing out. The thing that makes good leaders great is that they listen to their teams, sort out the thoughts, and provide direction / leadership / recommendations based on what they’ve learned.

One person never has all the right answers.

Yes, The Military Had It Right

Its very easy to focus on your own thoughts, what you want to say next, and ignore others. Have you been on a teleconference where you were multitasking or just formulating your next thought (and not paying attention)?

When I was in the Air Force, one of their many process manuals discussed “communication” in many paragraphs of writing. I remember questioning the value of this at the time, though retrospectively, they were clearly trying to teach this value to their young leaders.

In short it said you need three things for communication: 1) Someone to provide it, 2) A receiver, 3) Acknowledgement. The acknowledgement feedback was critical as it indicated that the person receiving the communication got it.

What You Can Do

I like the concept active listening, which helps you focus on what people are saying. Really listening.

— Three easy things —

1) Focus your attention — don’t multitask on calls / focus your attention in 1:1 conversations. On calls, you’re invited because you’re needed, spend your full attention — if you’re not creating / adding value, maybe you shouldn’t be on the call)

2) Jot down or remember concepts — focus on who’s saying what…and what it means. Don’t spend non-talking time thinking how you’ll respond.

3) Validate what was said — to ensure your understanding. The 3rd piece of the military’s definition is feedback. Though you may not always providing “feedback” retaining the right “validated” information is critical to creating the leadership value. Then use that to become the better leader.

The #1 Thing to Make You Great

Listen, really…

Do you know people who are not active listeners?

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