Tom told Jim that he appreciated that he listened. Tom’s past managers didn’t. Or at least Tom felt that way – which is what matters. Jim realized he had no choice. He was new to the job and the technologies involved. He couldn’t help unless he fully listened. He discovered that his gap in technical knowledge had made him a better leader.
Math students show their work and walk the teacher through the work. The math teacher watches, listens and asks guiding questions. The teacher knows the answer. That’s not the point. It’s about educated, capable students. Parents give kids chances to do things the parent knows how to do. It takes the kid longer – at first. The pay off is competent and self-sufficient children.
It doesn’t matter if you already have the answer. Giving the person speaking the chance to heard, to be seen, to solve the problem themselves … is what allows them to be human and whole. It’s what makes them more capable of following, delivering and, eventually, leading.
Too often it’s easier to cut someone off, insert our own answer, and leave the person we’re leading behind. This is true in all spheres of life – marriage, parenting, friendship and profession.
We all screw it up. It’s part of being human and incomplete. The desire to have the answer, be the person who can solve the problem, the person who can save the day, is part of us. The problem is it doesn’t lead to more answers, more solutions and more knowing. It leads to teams who rely on their leaders to solve problems. It leads to teams who do not feel trusted or valued. It leads to weakness.
The question is are we trying to improve? Having the answer is easy. Giving someone or a team of someones the confidence to find the answer for themselves is hard. And much more rewarding. And all it takes is a few extra minutes a day to simply listen. The extra minutes may be the key to being a strong leader who people would leap mountains for.
Are you listening?