“And is there anything else I should know about you guys Jas?”
It was probably the fifth time he’d asked me that question. My brain was frantically racking up something to say. But I’d covered all the major points – our history, approach, track record, specialism and so on. Everything I’d planned to cover in advance of the meeting and much, much more. In fact, I couldn’t actually think of anything more to say.
“No…I think that’s it Glen” I replied.
“Well thanks for stopping by, it was great to finally meet you. I’ll let you know once we’ve made a decision”….
That was ten years ago. One of my first big pitches at a company that would go on to become one of our biggest ever accounts. Yet funnily enough, despite the journey and all we’ve been through in that time, I’ll never forget the way I felt after that initial meeting with CEO Glen.
In all my years as a recruiter I’d never felt that anyone had ever made me feel so valued in a client meeting. Had taken the time to listen so attentively. Had made me genuinely feel that whatever I had to say was important and wanted to hear me out.
Working closely with Glen over the next 10 years, I learned that this was definitely not a one-off. In fact, part of what made him such an effective leader was that he always made sure that he took the time to hear others out before he jumped in with advice or decisions. It’s a big reason why his company is one of the market leaders in its sector and why employee engagement is so high – in a recent off-site I was invited to, I’ve never seen a group of people in the workplace work so closely and have so much fun.
In the fast paced world we live in today, time is money. We’re all constantly trying to do more faster. Yet when it comes to perhaps the most important thing in life – the quality of our relationships – nothing can be more frustrating than feeling like being short-changed by others by not being given the time to be heard.
But great leaders are different.
Here are some reasons why great leaders take the time to hear others out.
It’s more productive
Ironically, as paradoxical as it may sound, hearing others out fully can actually save much more time in the long run.
We’ve all been in situations where we have wasted large amounts of time in a particular situation only to run into a critical obstruction that could have been discovered with a more comprehensive diagnosis.
In our constant efforts to squeeze things in and get more done, often we are much more keen to get things “moved on” to the next stage of the process than actually getting the full picture. Despite the fact all of us knowing intellectually that in todays fast changing and competitive world, understanding the requirements of others has never been more important.
Great leaders understand that time invested properly is never wasted. Although it’s easy and quicker to make assumptions about others in the short term, in the long term it’s a sure fire way to failure.
People are complex. The only way to lead them effectively is to take the time to understand them fully.
Great leaders get the full picture.
It builds reciprocation
Ever been in a meeting or conversation where everyone was literally fighting to get the next word in?
Where you’ve been left more confused than when your meeting started? Where it has been more about showing who is the most “impressive” individual, rather than actually collaborating?
I’m guessing most people have.
The biggest reason for this is usually simply wanting to be heard. Since there’s often so much (and usually too much) to be covered, when the opportunity to get your opinion across comes up its easy just to jump straight in.
Inevitably however, this usually ends with just a bunch of individual opinions rather than a group consensus and things can quickly get confusing.
Great leaders understand that the easiest way to be heard is to let others have their full say first. As social creatures, we reciprocate automatically and once we’ve been given our time and space to be treated with respect, we’re almost always happy to do the same for others.
And with that state of mind, what a leader has to say will be treated with much more consideration and open-mindedness.
Great leaders let others speak first.
It develops connection
All of us crave emotional connection. Whether it’s our loved ones, our societies or even our place in history we all have reasons and motives to do things that are based on our relationships with others.
All of us want to feel important in our own special way and feel like what we have to say or do will be recognised by others.
And that’s where giving others the time to hear them fully out is most powerful.
Great leaders understand that no amount of money or awards can substitute spending quality time together. By taking the time to listen to others deeply they demonstrate interest, empathy and importance in what others have to say. It allows others to let off steam. To vent. To even get rid of emotional baggage that’s holding them back or emphasise something that’s critically important.
All of which builds a powerful bond that’s difficult for others to copy.
And that’s what makes great leaders different.
Great leaders develop connection.
We all have a lot to say.
But very few of us get a chance to be heard.
Great leaders understand that by taking the time to hear others out they automatically stand out from the crowd and makes their followers feel valued and special.
It’s a formula that builds loyalty and performance rapidly.
Does your boss hear you out?
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