In the rapidly evolving digital era, underscored by constant innovation, remote work, and crisis management, listening has emerged as a pivotal strategy for success.
Many CEOs and executive leaders are adept at articulating visions and strategies, yet the significant power of listening often gets overlooked. This includes not only hearing what is explicitly said but also understanding what is implied or, as the case might be, wholly absent from the conversation.
Listening encompasses more than just receiving words; it involves decoding emotions, grasping underlying thoughts, and discerning insights in moments of silence (Roberts, 2023). As we navigate the unprecedented speed and change of digital transformation, sharpening our listening skills has become imperative.
Extensive research underscores the vital role of active listening in leadership. It enhances decision-making, mitigates risk, and improves the overall employee experience (James & Wooten, 2022). Salesforce Research found that employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best (Arshad, 2023). This emphasizes the strong correlation between effective listening and organizational success.
I witnessed this personally during a recent Abundance 360 session with Peter Diamandis. As the video conference began, Diamandis appeared on my screen, not as a distant figure but as someone approachable and grounded. His discourse on the potential of exponential technologies to solve global issues deeply resonated with me.
In a breakout session, I had an opportunity to engage directly with Peter. Instead of dominating the conversation, he sought to understand our viewpoints, inquiring about my experiences and thoughts. His genuine interest in me (and every other participant) nurtured a climate of genuine colleagueship.
The impact of his authentic listening was profound.
Although he shared a wealth of new and critical information about the future of AI, my key takeaway from the session was his intense curiosity, his insightful questions, and his peer-like presence.
Diamandis’s humility allowed him to tap into the group’s collective wisdom. He was not just a renowned leader; he was someone genuinely interested in learning from everyone.
This level of sincere listening, particularly during crises, can elicit diverse viewpoints that enrich ideas and guide decisions. Leaders who successfully steered through the turmoil of the pandemic frequently highlighted active listening (James & Wooten, 2022).
In an increasingly globalized business environment, listening forms the foundation of an inclusive culture. When leaders listen, they validate their teams, signalling to them that their voices matter. This enhances morale, engagement, and productivity (Arshad, 2023), offering a chance to cultivate an atmosphere where everyone feels valued and heard.
However, a significant percentage of employees feel their voices go unheard. According to research from The Workforce Institute, 86% of employees feel they are not heard “fairly or equally,” and 63% believe their voice has been ignored by their employer or manager. This can dampen morale and deprive organizations of insights that could ignite innovation and growth. As CEOs and executive leaders, you bear the responsibility to rectify this by prioritizing and practicing listening.
Active listening nurtures a ‘fail-fast’ culture, where ideas are easily invited, shared, tested promptly, and feedback is rapidly obtained. It fosters collaboration, innovation, and continuous learning (Arshad, 2023).
As Larry King said, “Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”
To enhance your listening skills, consider how you can:
Listening is a skill that can be refined with practice and intention.
My interaction with Peter Diamandis reminded me of the vast impact of listening. As the online session concluded, I realized I learned more about who I want to become than what I wanted to know. This is a lesson I’ll carry forward as I continue to develop my own listening and leadership skills.
Today, make an effort to genuinely listen to someone. You might be astonished by the transformative effect it can have on your leadership and your organization.
Susanne Biro is a coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is the founder of Inner Life Leadership, an app for business professionals who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership (and life) success. Susanne is an author, executive development program designer, facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer, and a TEDx and keynote speaker.
For over two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level.
Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our world has changed, rapidly and in unexpected ways. As the crisis hit, I offered and held pro bono sessions with leaders from around the world. And I want to continue to do what I can to help. As a result, I now offer hourly sessions to ensure leaders everywhere can quickly get the perspective, clarity and focus they need to lead themselves, and therefore others, well during these challenging and uncertain times.