W.A.I.T. for Leadership

listening-185

Is there someone in your life who talks incessantly and with whom it’s hard to get a word in edgewise? I can think of a few. I can also recall times when I talked too much and over-powered a simple conversation. How does that much talking impact a professional relationship?

People often think that in order to build relationships, they need to talk about themselves, and impress people with the great things they’ve accomplished. In reality that behaviour makes them look like braggarts; self-centered individuals only interested in themselves. We may do it when others share an intimate story about themselves and we jump in with a similar story thinking that it’s a way to make a connection.   In reality, this behaviour puts others off, and we are thought of as someone who doesn’t care enough about others to listen to what they have to say.

The acronym ‘WAIT’ is an excellent reminder. It stands for “Why Am I Talking?” and is a great acronym to keep in mind when we are working with or socializing with people. ‘WAIT’ reminds us of the impact of someone talking incessantly and making it hard for others to get a word in edgewise.

Successful leaders and people who cultivate strong relationships know that listening is extremely powerful. Relationships are built on the reciprocity of give and take. When one listens deeply to another, the other individual feels valued, appreciated and taken seriously. Listening deeply often means silence on the listener’s part for extended periods of time and then asking questions that further the discussion. The person you are working with will appreciate the relationship more when you listen rather than talk.

Train Them To Take Over Your Job!

Leadership Development is all about growing your people to take over your job. I love the Jack Welch quote on my web page- “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.  When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” I love it because I believe so much in learning. And so often when leaders begin to support others in their growth as leaders, those employees are able to develop in their ability to take on greater and more responsible roles in an organization. When people are given the opportunity to learn and grow, they want to aspire to greater challenges. The desire to continue learning becomes part of who they are as an employee.

Coaching is a great way to develop your people. When individuals are coached, the message you are giving them is that they can figure out issues and opportunities for themselves. Your message to them is that you want them to learn for themselves. When you are confronted by an employee’s question and your first response is to toss out the question “what do you think?” you are demonstrating your faith in their ability. From there, continuing with questions like “how will you accomplish that?” “What might get in your way?” “What supports can I provide?” demonstrate that faith you have in them and their ability. In my experience, coaching is a great way to build a relationship. Leaders really get to know how employees think! Staff members who are coached go way beyond the expectations within their job because they feel empowered.

A leaders’ role is also about being an effective listener. Your employees love to be listened to, and when you model that behaviour, they listen to others as well. By listening to individuals, you demonstrate to them their value to the organization and especially how you value them as a person. Remember that you might not always like what you hear from them, so keep your emotions in check – leaders need to hear it all even if it is feedback for you personally. If you don’t give employees the opportunity to say it all, or you react negatively, you may inhibit them from providing you with this type of information in the future. Listening really means putting your agenda aside and being willing to hear it all from your employees. The value employee’s feel when they are listened to encourages them to keep learning and growing.

I believe strongly that a leader’s greatest role is to develop people within the organization. Coaching and listening are only two of the ways that a leader can develop people. In future blogs, I will explore other ways, too. Stay tuned!!