I often see business leaders and CEO’s confronted with a central paradox in their work.
They generally have access to more lines of communication than anybody else, but the information that flows to them is often suspect and compromised. Warning signals are watered down. Key facts are omitted. Data sets are given a positive spin. All of it isolates leaders in a dangerous information bubble.
If that sounds like you, then the good news is that you can escape the bubble by working to actively create a more expansive “listening ecosystem.”
Doing so will allow you to pick up on early signs of both danger and opportunity, which will enable you to manage your organisation more effectively.
Here are 4 practical tips you can start using in your own organisation.
Protect against blind spots
Make a habit of telling the people on your team that they need to keep you informed. Break down hierarchies and aim to create a culture where people feel free to challenge you.
Give permission to share bad news
Often people won’t give you the full picture, because they don’t want to tell you the things you don’t want to hear. Work on giving your team permission to give you bad news and to share everything with you in full.
Listen without judgement
I know that it can be challenging to remain fully present in meetings when you have 10 things on your mind at any given moment. However, being 100% present is a really important skill that you need to master. Aim to listen without judgement and process what someone is saying without trying to formulate a response.
Actively seek input
It’s not enough just to emphasise that people should speak up. You also have to invest time and energy in walking the halls, traveling to manufacturing plants and stores and holding regular meetings. That can be time-consuming, but it’s a core part of your job as a leader. If you get stuck in an ivory-tower mindset, the gap between your perceptions and the reality of what’s happening inside your company will grow.
Listening is a multidimensional practice. It requires commitment and constant attention, and as a business leader you may well find that you struggle to survive or thrive without honing your listening skills. I hope these pointers will help you break down any barriers that may be within your company in order to create a more expansive “listening ecosystem”.