Business schools dot the country’s landscape for one reason: to create effective leaders. These schools teach leaders to exhibit confidence, omniscience and competence, but what about listening? This trait is perhaps the most difficult of all leader attributes to acquire in part because as a leader listens, he admits that he may know less about building a sustainable business system than his title suggests. Consequently, listening is an expression of moral humility that can move a company’s center of gravity away from financial and operational theories to alternative sources of wisdom … namely a company’s stakeholders. Here are five practical benefits of doing so.
- Develop trusting relationships.
For a leader to gain access to objective advice and insights about a sought-after market, others must be willing to share that information. People are more likely to share valuable knowledge with an entrepreneur if they trust him as a business partner.
Trust is not the result of a leader transmitting queries about another company’s shipping schedule or brands to a business partner. To benefit from a partner’s expertise in marketing, supply chains or other functional topics, a leader must first listen to others to determine which partners are actually knowledgeable about particular topics. Next, a leader can listen to a business partner’s comments to recognize how to form a successful partnership with him. For instance, a vendor’s comments might indicate the company operates in a particular market or in particular shipping channels.
- Profit from economic opportunities.
Listening is a desirable strength, which might prove to be a competitive advantage that a leader can use to a company’s benefit. As a leader listens, he may increase his understanding and acceptance of a speaker’s viewpoint. As a leader gains an understanding of others, he might build relationships that support improved business dealings and business growth.
As business relationships increase in number, a leader is more likely to identify individuals who can effectively address his company’s challenges, which contributes to the company’s ability to profit from economic opportunities. Listening is the essential leader competence needed to establish the relationships needed to accomplish particular goals and profit from economic opportunities.
- Gain positive support for proposed objectives and strategies.
If a leader who holds a position of power focuses his attention on that speaker to learn from his perspective, the speaker feels he is respected and that his opinion matters, so his confidence is enhanced. As a person grows more confident, he more easily and readily communicates with others. Consequently, the information flow between the leader and the speaker becomes more free-flowing. Also, as the information flow becomes more natural, it’s more likely that each person will listen without interruption or extraneous comments. In turn, each person will be more accepting of proposed objectives and strategies.
- Identify positive solutions to problems.
For a leader to convince a speaker that he is receptive to his comments, the leader will put aside his work, ignore his iPhone, email and other communication platforms and listen to the speaker. By ignoring distractions and making eye contact, a leader convinces a speaker of his willingness to participate in problem-solving activities. In addition, by sitting calmly and listening, rather than seek opportunities to interject comments, a leader demonstrates his willingness to withhold judgment until a speaker conveys his opinion. If the leader continues to listen even if a particular statement is alarming, it’s more likely he will follow a speaker’s train of thought before forming an opinion, which supports effective problem-solving.
- Advance Teamwork.
A leader can solve problems in a high-stress, high-speed team environment by listening to stakeholders — those with an interest in a project or organization. To employ good communication skills to solve problems, a leader must listen to gather information about the problem a team was formed to address. Only by participating in group meetings and listening for rational understanding can a leader more quickly identify solutions to problems, which increases the accuracy of a team’s work, saves time and decreases costs.
Listening can create a place of dialogue where a leader and other personnel discuss issues and, if necessary, resolve them. Listening is an intellectual, emotional and spiritual process that contributes to better relationships, particularly between a company and its vendors and customers. In addition, listening can improve morale and advance teamwork, increase the number of proposed solutions to an issues, and gain support for strategic objectives.