Much of my career as a leader has been marked by talking. As a husband, father, leader, and coach I am expected to talk. Nearly every day, at work and home, I am explaining how to do things, answering questions, and solving problems. Throughout the years, I have gotten to be quite skilled at talking. But as a leader I have learned that listening is often much more important than talking. Talking too much or too quickly brings (at a minimum) the following problems:
1. Making a person feel completely unheard
When a person needs to ask a question or discuss something, they often don’t need me to provide them with answers. They are rather looking to process verbally and be listened to. If I quickly step in to answer their question or solve their problem I am missing the point of what is often needed – someone to listen to them rather than someone to hastily solve their problem.
2. Solving the wrong problem
Sometimes when a person approaches me to ask a question or to discuss something I hastily throw my brilliant problem-solving skills into action. But I then discover that the question that I was answering was not the question that the person was even asking. Many times I have found myself solving the wrong problem.
Both of these problems occur when a leader talks more than he listens. Many people seem to be completely unaware of how much they talk and how little they listen. When a leader listens well, he is giving others the opportunity to express their thoughts, facilitating growth without a lecture, and communicating that the person’s thoughts, words, and opinions are valuable.
Great leaders listen more than they talk.