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Two Must Have Keys To Extraordinary Leadership

Two Must Have Keys To Extraordinary Leadership

The wealth of strategies and approaches that leaders can use are endless. From John Maxwell, to Steven Covey, to Jack Welch to Quint Studer to excellent leadership, extraordinary, success HBR insights, and … the list can go on almost forever.

Where to start? Let’s get basic. Very simple. No matter your personality, your leadership style, your behavior, your personal patterns, there are two keys to extraordinary leadership.

These two keys are simple to understand, yet, perhaps not so simple to execute. And, together they ramp up the success of any leader. These two things go hand in hand. And, too often, both of these approaches are overlooked.

Without additional preamble, these two must have keys to extraordinary leadership are:

  1. To be Silent, and
  2. To Listen

Of note is that both words, Silent and Listen, share the same letters,
which, in alphabetical order, are: E, I, L, N, S and T. This may be a
simple coincidence. It may be that these two words and the concepts
they represent are complementary sides of the same coin. They work
together. One does not work well without the other.

It is difficult to Listen without being Silent.

Great leadership is about many things, however, if these two things are not present, successful leadership is difficult.

Both being Silent and choosing to Listen take intention and practice. The skilled leader must choose to be Silent at times and will find that silence greatly enhances listening.

What we hear as leaders drives our choices and next steps. It tells us if we are successful. It validates if we are making a connection with those we lead. It demonstrates to us if our vision is understood and followed by others.

As many of us continue to seek ways to drive overall employee engagement, meaning, looking for ways to connect front line employees with the purpose and mission of our organizations, an additional approach is always appreciated.

To be Silent so that we can Listen may be new for some of us, and not so new for others. When I share these ideas with others I regularly hear comments like, “Yeah, I know that” or “Everyone knows that”. This may be the case. However, if others were asked about your style, would they use either of these words to describe you?

If not, you have work to do. Without being Silent so that you can Listen, you are missing out on tremendous leadership opportunities.

To intentionally and effectively implement to be Silent and to Listen takes time and energy. It takes practice.

And, it is not easy. The difficult part of this dynamic duo is being Silent. Our tendency is to fill the silent gaps with noise. That noise gets in the way of our ability to actually hear, and to connect with what we hear.

There are several ways to get to Silent. One way is to have two or three simple questions to ask other employees as you visit with others. Then go to Silent and Listen. This may sound counter intuitive— speaking to get to silent. However, it works; it is effective. The questions you ask may vary based on who you are and what you do and your personal style. However, the basic idea is to ask a few simple questions, to prime the pump so that you can listen.

I ask questions such as:

  • Tell me about your day
  • What is the most challenging part of your job
  • What do I need to know about your project
  • How long have you worked here
  • What can I do better

While some of these sound like simple, and almost closed ended questions, they demonstrate to others that I care about the person with whom I am talking. It tells them I want to know more about them and what they think. I value their thoughts. That is powerful. These questions are not too broad. Most people you talk to will know how to answer them.

If you ask overly broad, more open ended questions, it is difficult for the other person to know exactly what you are asking. It makes it difficult for others to know where to start when answering or engaging in the discussion. Know this, the questions you are asking are not part of a test. They are designed to get the other person to open up.

Of course, as I listen I will ask other short, prompting questions. I continue to be amazed at how much the average person, the average employee wants to be heard. Given the chance, employees will tell you lots, and I mean lots, of things. Some of it is stuff you want to hear. Some of it is stuff you don’t want to hear. However, all of it is stuff a good leader needs to listen to.

Draft out a set of questions that you can use. Yes, draft out the questions. I write down the questions that work for me, I do this because it helps me think through what I really want to know, and I use feedback from others to know which questions get me the most Listen for my Silent.

Add some Silent and some Listen to your daily routine as you go and meet with your front line leaders, your front line employees, employees in your own area, and your direct reports.

Ask simple questions that are not too broad. Use questions that get the other person to talk. Then listen, listen and listen some more.

Questions to ponder:

Do others describe you as a listener?

Are you comfortable with silence?

Do you value the input from your staff?

Are your employees and customers comfortable sharing their ideas with you?

Are you willing to practice being Silent so that you can Listen better?

 

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Philip Espinosa partners with people to deliver value: People | Partnerships | Value serves as his tag line. As a strategic human resources leader, he believes that service starts with the customer. His book "Deliver Excellent Customer Service with a SNAP” helps others drive customer engagement using simple and consistent communication strategies. A second book titled "Focus On Your Success - 24 Simple Insights To Drive Daily Achievement" (ebook) helps working professionals view their daily choices through a different perspective. In addition to his writing, Philip works with strategic human capital initiatives and has delivered successful results over a career spanning more than 25 years.

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