The power of listening and that you are not really the boss

Courses, presentations, and blog articles on “How to be a great leader” are found all over the place. They all have a common goal of trying to help you become the next person in the room to reach another ladder rung in their career. However many of these types of life lessons on leadership can be used to help you be a better employee, manager, existing leader or even just a better YOU.

I recently read the book “Take the Lead” by Betsy Myers. I was honored to have been able to spend time with Betsey one night in Boston while attending an event at the Startup Institute. Betsy is a strong women. She has held many different roles in her life, including key positions in the Clinton and Obama administrations, as well as positions at Harvard. She now does management consulting and can be found being a keynote speaker at many events around the world.

The one amazing thing about Betsy is that in everything she pursues, and has the same attitude and engagement in her duties. She takes on challenges that at first may seem above and beyond her normal comfortability level and makes those challenges her own. She has been proven to enter complex situations and bring clear strategies into solving these complex issues with hard work and dedication. However she is never in it alone.

One thing that Betsy stresses in her book is about the importance of everyone’s views as well as everyone’s potential. Sometimes just listening to everyone in the room gives a leader a different perspective on and issue and one that they may never have thought of themselves.

Over our careers we are constantly surrounded by people who need to work collaborativly in order to come to a decision. The project might be as small as to what color to paint the walls in the office or as complex as the one of the largest decisions in the world of electing the next president, but the process of being a leader is the same. You need to be able to listen to everyone in the room, and then combine those facts into actionable items to leader the group. You should leave every meeting being surprised in the work your team is capable of accomplishing.

Many people think that to make a great leader you need to be the smartest person in the room. A good leader will be able to enter any room on any topic and be able to listen and ask the right questions of the people in the room to help make better decisions. A good leader should understand that to be a good leader, means that you are not the boss.

The second important note that I took away from Betsy’s book was the large problem of disengagement and low moral in the workplace. Betsy helps frame this issue by providing key statistics that backup her thesis.

  • Disengagement and low morale in the workplace create an economic burden of some $350 billion annually in the US with a similar impact occurring in other countries around the world.
  • 70 percent of American workers report feeling “not engaged” or “actively engaged” at work.

This to me is a HUGE problem that is worth while for companies to look for a quick solution.

Side Rant — My personal opinion to this as a millenial is that legacy companies that have ben around for years are not able to move quick enough to “keep up with the times”. The fact that employees are not able to have flexible work schedules or be able to work from home is not based off of employees not speaking up, instead it is from leaders who are scared of moving away from “normal” and feel that fast decision making could lead them to have a downward spiral in revenue or some other metric. Companies are trying to make these moves to keep millennials, but the world is changing quicker than these companies are adjusting. Employee retention is horrible and it kills the moral for those who stay at the company. The solution to this problem needs to be found quickly.— Side Rant Complete…

To fix these issues we need to rely on strong leaders from many angles. You need to have leaders that are smart enough to know when they need to take a different path that they did not originally plan. They need to know that they are not the smartest person in the room. They need to know that the answer is sometimes right in front of them and they did not even need to say a word.

On the other side, leaders need to be highly engaged with their employees. Employees should never be considered a number, and they should instead be thought of as keys players in the business. That even thought they could easily get replaced by someone else, that what they are currently doing makes a difference in the company. There should never be a time where a person performing their daily duty should not know what value they are giving to the company for working 8 hours each day.

All in all, Take the Lead by Besty Myers was a great read, and it helps enlighten leaders to succeed in many different forms of leadership. For those of you who are currently leaders, or strive to become leaders in the future, it is a great tool to keep on your bookshelf to get you on track or back on track to help change the culture of your business and your career for the better.