You’ve Got Two Ears and a Mouth For a Reason

Yes, to listen. While most of us we came into the world with these three tools functioning, many executives never learned to use them. And, even those who did often forget.

Use Your Ears

As a leader, your role is to optimize the critical thinking of those around you. Unless you are in a turnaround situation that requires quick tough decisions and you are the only one with the perspective to find the right answer, consider trying this: Using your mouth to ask questions that help other key executives find the answer. In doing so, like Socrates, you will enable learning that when applied, will build understanding, confidence, independence in others, and make your job as the leader so much easier. Over time people will come to you to inform you of their great decisions, rather than come to you with problems they want and need you to solve for them.

Having said that, questions alone are insufficient. You need to really listen for two reasons. One is to allow your colleagues to really be heard by you. The other is so that you might form the next question that will continue to bring them to a place of realizing that they created a solution that they understand and are much more likely to own and implement.

Because let’s face it, your job as an executive is to coach. And coaching isn’t just about telling people what to do or providing feedback when failure has, or is about to occur. Digging out of a hole is much more challenging that avoiding the trap in the first place. It’s about teaching and encouraging others to find the right solutions.

So why do so many of us Baby Boomers not get this? Simply, we grew up in organizations and were influenced by leaders who rose in the ranks because they had the answer. These people love being the center of attention and nurturing a “hub and spoke” executive culture that gave them a sense of job security. But in reality, none of us likes to be told what to do, especially when we don’t feel that our thoughts, feeling, and opinions have been taken into account. And while using that autocratic style might get things done, it doesn’t translate into happy employees, and in reality, can really bog your organization down.

So, if you would like to improve your connection with your colleagues, consider how this simple GROWS framework might help. It also works with your spouse and kids!

Goal: Engage by getting clear on the goal of the conversation.

Reality: Ask your colleague to share their view of reality, asking questions to both calibrate their view with yours, and then add your perspective. Shared understanding of reality is critical.

Options: Though open-ended questions, ask for others thoughts on options, probing to understand their thought process, as well as any “interference” that may be biasing their thinking.

What to do: You are now ready to pinpoint actions by simply asking “what will you do now?”. Again, listen and interject any additional suggestions you may have without dominating the next steps.

Success: Lastly and most importantly is to confirm what success will look like and agree on future feedback mechanisms and discussions.

GROWS works. Not for problem performers, but for those colleagues that you are committed to keeping engaged and ensuring their contributions are commensurate with their potential.

Also, here is a link to a great Fast Company Blog in listening—-check it out.

If you would like to learn more, or discuss a situation that you are currently facing, email me at email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 708-369-1718. I would be happy to share an objective view.