Listening: The Attribute Every CEO Must Possess
Large and in charge. That’s the persona of the average CEO. They are the eloquent ones, with the power to reach and move others. Some might even be called good communicators. Yet, this may be an inaccurate moniker.
After all, effective communication means more than just talking. It means listening, too; and often better than you’re able to talk. Lee Iacocca, Former CEO of Chrysler Corporation, once said, "I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions."
Unfortunately, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, author Ram Charan says 25% of feedback received on CEOs during 360-degree reviews reveals a listening shortfall, “the effects of which can paralyze cross-unit collaboration, sink careers, and if it's the CEO with the deficit, derail the company.” Before you ask, it is that big of a deal.
Listening to those around you has significant benefits. It helps build critical relationships with clients, customers, and employees. That in turn, builds trust. That trust encourages loyalty and productivity. And, of course, this all equates to increased profitability.
Then there is the can’t-be-overlooked benefit of listening: the opportunity to discover and understand more than you ever could otherwise—about your employees (what they want/need and what makes them produce greater results) and about your clients/customers (what they want/need from your company). So, it’s easy to see why, when you don’t focus on developing this attribute, you get the negative results identified in Charan’s article.
Here are 3 ways to build your listening abilities and help ensure you’re able to reap the positive:
1. Clear your mind.
2. Forget about you.
3. Remember that it’s more than words.
To be a truly great listener, the key, in essence, is to become selfless in the conversation, giving all attention to the one who is offering you an opportunity to reap the benefits that come from doing so. As Karl Menninger once said, “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”