Meerkats huddle, presumably to listen to the leader.

Why listening to your team is so important and how you can be a better listening-leader

Sometimes leaders get in the groove of dictating rather than collaborating. It’s easier to make decisions unilaterally because conversations can be messy. A leader may say that clear vision comes from a decisive leader.

I get that and I can appreciate a leader that acts with conviction and clear purpose. But a leader who doesn’t listen to their team on decisions is risking more than they realize.

Why listening to your team is so important

Look at those big floppy ears!

1. You bring together the best from everyone.

You hired/gathered your team because they’re good at what they do or they’re passionate about your mission. Leaving those ideas, convictions, opinions, and what-ifs on the table is a waste.

2. You tap into everyone’s diverse experience.

Your personal experience is limited. Your team’s experience is vast. People have lived in other countries and cultures, experienced different upbringings, experienced different pains and joys and struggles. All those experiences are brought together to increase your team’s collective wisdom.

3. You include the expertise of people more closely related to a specific discipline or role than you.

You’re not the best at everything your team does. In fact, if you’ve been recruiting right, you might not be the best at any of the things your team does. Don’t assume you can tell them how to do their job.

4. You get your ego out of the way.

Ego is a major momentum killer. It can sneak into decision-making and firmly plant itself between good intentions and good outcomes. When you don’t listen to your team, your ego can run rampant.

5. Your team gains ownership and pride.

There’s nothing better than feeling proud of what you do. Often, that pride comes from being a part of the decision-making process. Each person knows they contributed to the direction and a small part of it is theirs.

6. Your team becomes more responsible for outcomes.

When each person has ownership of decision-making, they also become responsible for the outcome of those decisions. It’s theirs and they want to see it succeed.

7. Your people feel heard and valued.

A person who feels valued will work harder and with more joy. They’re less likely to leave, even in rough times. And they’re more likely to recruit their friends and colleagues to their team.

How to be a better listening-leader

I’ve seen leaders try to be a better listener, but choose the wrong format or environment to give their team a voice. And, since it doesn’t go well, assume that listening isn’t helpful. Heck, I’ve been that guy myself.

Being a better listening-leader definitely takes intentionality, but intention needs to be matched by using the right format.

I recommend two formats: in-person (privately) or using Impart.

  1. In-person 1-on-1 meetings are excellent if you have the time. I normally use in-person private meetings to connect with each person on my team about once per quarter. This happens over coffee or lunch and I dedicate that time to listening.
  2. I use Impart for regularly checking in with my team, getting their private feedback on decisions, mining their expertise and experience for ideas, and giving them a chance to review my performance as their leader. It’s private, direct, structured, and quick.

Group meetings, emails, and chat don’t work for listening

Meetings don’t work because they’re too public, too easily sidetracked, and too easily directed by strong personalities. A quiet person with great insight probably won’t speak up in a group setting. A loud person with little insight is more likely. People who miss the meeting don’t get a chance to speak up.

Email is stale and unstructured. You could make a list of questions and ask your team to answer in reference to each question on the list, but that’s annoying to me. And if you want to communicate something important to your team, email lacks any personality.

Chat is too temporal and public. It’s pretty common for my team to miss chat messages simply because they’re focused on something else when the chat message comes in.

Yes, I’m a huge believer in Impart. I believe it’s a valuable tool for leaders and I think it would make any leader better at their job. Impart lets you send video messages with follow-up questions to everyone on your team or just a few people on your team.

I made Impart for myself because I needed a better tool to create feedback loops with my remote team of volunteers. And I needed a way to engage my team with new information that let me use my best skill: talking. Impart lets me do both of those things.

Also, Impart is free. Give it a try