ListeningI came across this online yesterday and couldn’t stop thinking about it. In the past few weeks I have had conversations with several clients that have told me that they don’t feel heard or that they have simply stopped speaking up.

This isn’t just a problem for those individuals. It is a bigger problem for their organizations. When leaders don’t listen the wheels will inevitably fall off the bus. Over the years I have come to realize that there are three main reasons why leaders fail to listen.

1. They are not present – Listening requires being in the moment. You need to put down the phone or close the computer. You need to look people in the eye. Our work life is now full of distractions, rapid fire deadlines and virtual communications which all challenge our ability to be fully present with our teams. We need to be respectful enough to our teams and our goals to be fully present.

2. They are not open – Often leaders walk into a meeting or jump onto a call with a decision already made. They think they have the right answer and are not open to any information that may not agree with their plan. They come to the conversation with preconceptions of what others will say. So they don’t think they have to listen. The truth is the new information can come from the most unusual places and the most unusual time.  If we are open, we will hear it.

3. They are not secure – This is the hardest challenge to overcome. When a leader is not secure in their role or their abilities, they avoid conversations which may highlight these to others. They shut people down or deflect comments as a way of not having to hear what they don’t want to hear.  No one expects a leader to know everything at all times. Listening to your team you may find you strengthen not only your decision making but your skills as well.

If you are a leader, be honest with yourself and reflect on how well you are listening. We can all work on this critical skill. If we don’t, as the photo says, we run the risk finding ourselves all alone with no one to lead.