The Path To Leadership

Listen Up, Leaders! Why Your Team Might Leave You

April 30, 2024 Catalyst Development Season 1 Episode 32
Listen Up, Leaders! Why Your Team Might Leave You
The Path To Leadership
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The Path To Leadership
Listen Up, Leaders! Why Your Team Might Leave You
Apr 30, 2024 Season 1 Episode 32
Catalyst Development

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Our CSO Emma Blankenship is stepping in as your host  today to unravel the crucial role of listening in leadership! From a cozy corner in Kansas City, Emma reveals why many leaders fail to truly hear their teams and how this oversight can lead to significant losses for a company, including its top talent. Drawing on troubling statistics and real-life stories, she highlights common pitfalls in corporate communication and offers practical strategies to foster a culture of effective listening. This episode is a call to action for leaders at all levels to dismantle the 'executive bubble,' enhance focus, and embrace feedback, with actionable steps and a touch of Emma's academic flair. Tune in to transform how you listen, lead, and learn in your professional landscape.

HBR article mentioned in the episode: https://hbr.org/2021/03/are-you-really-listening

Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Our CSO Emma Blankenship is stepping in as your host  today to unravel the crucial role of listening in leadership! From a cozy corner in Kansas City, Emma reveals why many leaders fail to truly hear their teams and how this oversight can lead to significant losses for a company, including its top talent. Drawing on troubling statistics and real-life stories, she highlights common pitfalls in corporate communication and offers practical strategies to foster a culture of effective listening. This episode is a call to action for leaders at all levels to dismantle the 'executive bubble,' enhance focus, and embrace feedback, with actionable steps and a touch of Emma's academic flair. Tune in to transform how you listen, lead, and learn in your professional landscape.

HBR article mentioned in the episode: https://hbr.org/2021/03/are-you-really-listening

Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome. This is not Dr Katie. This is Emma, chief Strategy Officer here at Catalyst Development, and I will be your host today for the Path to Leadership podcast, as Katie is out of the office. But I'm super happy to be here with you. It's a beautiful day in Kansas City. I'm sitting here on my couch and my dog, charlie, is sitting with me. He is taking a little nap. I'm just setting the scene for you.

Speaker 1:

I guess this is going to be a little shorter episode because it's just me today, but I thought we could chat about one of the most important topics in all of leadership, and one that matters to me a lot, and that is the art of listening. I have some really great information for you today, and make sure you stay till the end for some very practical homework that is going to help you incorporate this information into your life. So I got the inspiration for this. This past weekend, I had drinks with a friend of mine who is so killing it at work. He's a project manager at a very large company that will not be named and he is known for being a very high performer. So last year he was handed a really important project, and when I say important project, I mean like one of the most important projects the company has, okay, but every time he and I chat about work even though this project was like a huge moment in his career he was super excited about it Now when we chat about it, he mentions that he's really struggling with feeling unheard. So, despite clearly communicating to his boss what's working, what's not, what his team needs, it just seems like his higher-ups are not listening. Nothing ever changes. I happen to know that it won't be long before he begins seriously looking for another job, and that got me thinking about how crucial listening truly is, not just in life, but especially in leadership. So I did some research today and it turns out my friend is not alone. I just read in Forbes a really troubling statistic from the Workforce Institute that 86% of employees feel that they are not heard fairly or equally and 63% believe their voice has been ignored by their employer or manager. So this is a super common and critical pain point in a lot of organizations. I'm sure that you have some situations in mind right now as you're listening to this, and when people feel ignored, that is a really quick way for a company to start losing its top talent. So that's why it's a really important pain point. So I just want to dive into this a little bit and talk about what we can do as leaders to ensure that listening becomes part of our workplace cultures, even and maybe especially in the C-suite.

Speaker 1:

So there was a great article in the Harvard Business Review a couple of years ago that made the argument that listening can head off extreme crises in large companies. Listening can head off extreme crises in large companies. So one of the concepts that this article introduced to me was the concept of an executive bubble. Basically, what that means, if you don't know, is that executives, especially CEOs, tend to have this sort of information bubble around them. The reason is because they mostly communicate with other executives, them. The reason is because they mostly communicate with other executives and those other executives may give them a positive spin on things, or they might omit certain details or just kind of tell them what they want to hear. So, unfortunately, the more walled off a CEO is from different opinions and criticisms, the more struggles the company tends to have. So okay, let's get to the so what?

Speaker 1:

As you know, at Catalyst Development, we don't talk about why you should be a leader. We talk about how to actually do it. So we don't want to have a company that loses its high performers, that misses out on innovative ideas, that struggles with its culture. So what can we actually do to be better listeners? Well, I've got three things to talk to you about. My first tip, number one, is a very impactful approach to becoming better listeners as leaders, and this one is actually more impactful the higher up you are in your company. And this one is actually more impactful the higher up you are in your company. So that is to actively de-emphasize the traditional corporate hierarchy. So that doesn't mean eliminating your corporate structure, of course. It's more about your personal and company values. It's more about encouraging people at all levels of your company to feel that they can speak to you, the higher up or the leader.

Speaker 1:

When you encourage open lines of communication across all levels, you can prevent that executive bubble effect. So if you're an executive, you may want to ask yourself right now when was the last time I visited the offices of XYZ department and asked how they were doing? Ask yourself this would all of my employees feel comfortable chatting with me in the hallway? You could consider implementing regular open door sessions where employees at all levels are invited to share their thoughts directly with senior leaders, without going through layers of management. I know that earlier in my career that would have been really, really valuable to me to have been able to share my thoughts with the leadership. Valuable to me to have been able to share my thoughts with the leadership. So, if you are able to do this, have these open door sessions. It's not only going to help your leaders hear unfiltered insights, but it also signals to the employees that their voices are valued. So in these sessions, you might hear things that are warning signs of bigger problems to come, in which case you can go ahead and take care of them before that happens. Another thing to think about is that you might also hear innovative new ideas that you wouldn't have heard otherwise because of those layers of management that are protecting you from new information or negative information. But a lot of times it could be just an innovative idea that has to come from the people on the front lines.

Speaker 1:

Okay, number two in my tips for listening has to do with focus. So we all know that a major barrier to effective listening in 2024, in our technology-driven world, is the constant barrage of just distractions that we have. So if you've ever had a conversation with someone who is kind of like half looking at their phone while they spoke to you, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Perhaps you're even the one that does that, and I get it. You have a lot of responsibilities. You are doing a lot of things at once You're multitasking but for leaders, the ability to focus intently on a conversation without multitasking of any sort is so crucial.

Speaker 1:

Focus really enhances the quality of your interactions and it signals respect and value to the person that's talking to you. So you can cultivate this skill by setting clear boundaries during meetings. You can put your phone in airplane mode, for instance, or you can practice mindfulness techniques that improve concentration and presence. At Catalyst Development, we actually have a whole session that we do on focus. Sometimes we do lunch and learn sessions on it. So I know that focus is a skill that you can get better at, even if you're not perfect.

Speaker 1:

So one quick tip on this is starting your day with a 10 minute meditation. If you can be consistent with this for several weeks, I promise you that you will see changes in many areas of your life. Your ability to focus is one of them. Another thing that you can see changes in many areas of your life. Your ability to focus is one of them. Another thing that you can do is use a screen time management app to set times for focus. I'm not endorsing one. I happen to use one called Opal, but there's a ton of them. The work that you can get done during these times is just one benefit, but the practice of actually doing it, of focusing, is going to help you become a better listener, and if you're a better listener, you're a better leader. Okay, number three this is going to be your favorite one, not Number three is embracing criticism and difficult conversations and I'm kind of laughing because obviously this is something that's difficult for all of us.

Speaker 1:

Leadership often means being willing to hear the things that you'd rather not hear, and embracing criticism and being open to bad news. That's important to being a good listener. So your openness in this is not only going to help you mitigate issues before they escalate, but it's also going to strengthen trust within your team. Leaders should cultivate an environment where employees feel safe to express concerns and criticism without fear. This is called psychological safety. Again, we do a lot of trainings on this, but this is just really practical stuff.

Speaker 1:

One way to encourage this is leading by example, so you could publicly ask for feedback on your decisions and acknowledge your own areas for improvement. Katie's really good at this. She has always basically from the time that I first started working for her, she has always been open to hearing my concerns, to hearing my feedback. She, in our first one-on-one, I think, asked me what can I do better? And I was just really taken aback because I had never had a boss say that to me. That's just such an interesting thing if you've never heard it before. So another thing that you can do is implement something like the working genius in your company, which is a great way to open up the discussion of your own areas of improvement, things that frustrate you. If you can be honest about that in the context of the working genius, that's going to help everyone. So when you do receive this criticism, you can practice responding with gratitude, so you don't have to say like oh yeah, absolutely you're right to someone who offers criticism or feedback, but you should offer a genuine commitment to considering the feedback at least, so you can actually um show how to receive difficult information. Show your employees that you value growth and learning over your own personal comfort or appearances. So you're really setting an example on that. Okay, so those are my three tips.

Speaker 1:

If you've ever done a training with me, you know that I love to give homework. I am a recovering academic at heart. I actually have two pieces of homework for you this week. So number one is this week, approach your team, especially your direct reports, and ask them two simple questions. You can ask your family this as well. You might get more honest answers. You ask them number one what do I do well as a listener? Questions you can ask your family this as well. You might get more honest answers. You ask them number one what do I do well as a listener? And number two how could I improve as a listener? So this feedback is really invaluable because it comes from those who experience your listening style firsthand and I guarantee you there are probably things that they would be able to give you feedback on right away.

Speaker 1:

Your second piece of homework is one of my favorite techniques in communication is becoming comfortable with silence. So the homework is the next time you find yourself in an important or difficult conversation. Every time the other person finishes speaking, allow a gap of a few seconds, because oftentimes, when the other person finishes speaking, we just start talking right away and instead give it some time to breathe, give it a pause, give it a beat of two, three, maybe even four seconds. What this does is it allows the other person some space to add a little bit more information. If there was something left unsaid, they will be the person who goes to fill that silence and they may be able to give you more information. It also gives you a moment to formulate a thoughtful response which shows that you're really engaging with their thoughts and not just waiting for your turn to speak. Because, after all, if they were talking and you start talking back a half a second later, then that means you probably weren't listening, because you already had on your mind what you were going to say. Okay, I hope you really enjoyed this information.

Speaker 1:

We at Catalyst Development would love to work with you and your company to improve your culture, so reach out to us if there's something you'd like to chat about. We have corporate trainings that we can do, and I also do private coaching. So does Dr Katie in special cases. So reach out to us. My email is emma at cdleaderscom. You can also just DM us on Instagram or LinkedIn and we will get right back with you. So thank you so much for hanging out with me today on the path to leadership and listening to me talk about well listening. Have a great day y'all. See you next time.

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