How often do you take out your stethoscope? That acoustic device for listening to internal sounds in the body. In the leadership team? In the organisation? In the industry?
As Frederick the Great is quoted as saying: “It’s pardonable to be defeated, but never to be surprised.“
So, while information flows – and in some cases readily – listening for others’ viewpoints, others’ perspectives, others’ concerns is not something that comes naturally. In particular when the clock is ticking.
And this has it’s price. Over. And over. And over again.
I had a client whose listening focused solely on fact-finding. They were addicted to figures. Deadlines was the language they spoke. Fluently. And loudly. Deliverables the name of the game.
However, they were not perceived as a listener. And this was explicitly expressed in their recent 360° feedback report. By direct reports. Peers. And one member of the Executive Board.
In fact, my client was described as “impatient,“ “insensitive,“ and “out of touch with the business.“ An apparent immunity to reality was clearly on the cards.
“Figures, figures, figures. That’s their mantra!“ This was the comment that had made its mark. This was the statement that left my client dumbfounded. And had me at the other side of their desk.
With a serious challenge to leadership now articulated, corrective measures needed to be taken. But how?
Taking the bull by the horns, I asked: “How much time do you spend between listening inwardly and listening outwardly?“
“Listening! Listening!“ They growled. “We’re not hear to listen. We’re here to perform. We’re here to deliver. To stay ahead of the game.“
“What game?“ I asked.
“We’re the market leader. And that’s where we need to stay. We’re being challenged. Right. Left. And center.“
“What’s the strategy?“ I countered.
Silence. A quick look at their watch. And with time on my client’s side, we arranged a new appointment.
Agility. This was the company’s strategy moving forward. Personal agility. Team agility. Business agility.
So, my client now needed to strike a decisive balance. The balance between inside-out thinking and outside-in thinking. That delicate dance between “deciding and driving“ and “deep listening and collaborating.“
Profiled as a learner, I knew they could do it. And they did!
Today, staying ahead of the game is “out.“ Game changing is “in.“ It’s the deliverable required.
For this reason, listening is “in“ big time. Listening for the critical ingredients needed to make that game change. A game change that could be “the“ game changer for the industry.
And this means, listening in all its shapes and sizes. To thought leaders. To system thinkers. To perspective shatterers. To reality checkers. All thrivers on observation. On analysis. On dialogue. On doing business on the edge.
So, what does a stethoscope have to do in the business world? Everything! All stakeholders have to be heard. Even that flicker of an eyelid needs to be noticed. And we’re speaking about “all“ stakeholders. Along the entire business chain.
The stethoscope is intelligence gathering at its best.
How are you doing on the listening front? Have you experienced any unexpected, yet predictable, surprises recently?
photograph: © bilaluker / Fotolia.