There’s a crisis in our organizations. It’s a talking crisis, characterized by a gross lack of listening. Most senior leaders I encounter are great at talking, occupying most of the oxygen in every room. What they’re not so good at is listening.

That’s too bad.

Sadly, I wonder how many great ideas and potential solutions have crashed on the shores of bloviating leaders who failed to ask, listen, learn, and adapt?

In this crisis environment, there are only two behaviors that will save your organization: curiosity and listening. Talking is a distant fifth. I’m not sure what’s third or fourth, but it isn’t talking.

Curiosity—Three Critical Questions Leaders Must Ask Constantly

When much of what we used to know and count on no longer applies in our businesses and markets, it’s imperative to channel our inner-child and once again become curiosity-driven learning machines. My favorite three leadership questions:

  1. Why?
  2. What if?
  3. How might we?

The first seeks to understand.

The second breeds hope and possibility.

The third brings ideas to life.

Listening Leads to Performance

Did you hear the one about the manager who took the time to listen carefully to her people and discovered how many great ideas they had to solve problems? Of course, her only thought was, “I’m so glad they’ve been listening to me.

Some people never get it. You can.

Focusing on someone with all of your energy and striving to comprehend what they are saying is one of the highest forms of respect you can show another person.

Respect begets trust. And trust is the raw material of performance.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Starting today, when someone approaches you, say to yourself: “This is important to us. I’m going to focus, not interrupt, and then ask questions until I understand what they are trying to communicate.” I guarantee this one example of goodness will ripple through their day, your team, and your organization. Do this enough—ask questions and listen—and they’ll help you find a way forward.

Art's Signature