Leadership Listening

An effective leader is not only one who can articulate a goal and motivate others toward it. He or she must also know how to listen to others’ concerns in order to discern the source of resistance to change.

Leadership workshopBetween 2007 and 2010, I led an industry-wide training program that reached 10,000 people nationwide and was key to the successful deployment of a new technology throughout the television news industry. The program succeeded where earlier attempts had failed because I discerned the resistance arose not from lack of knowledge, but from fear of obsolescence.  –David Otey

Are you part of an organization that relies heavily on, or is led by, engineers, scholars, doctors, scientists, financial analysts, or other highly trained professionals? If you are, and especially if you are concerned about the quality of strategic decision-making in your organization, then you need to be aware of one of the most destructive myths in organizational behavior. What is that myth? It is the myth that decision-making is a rational, intellectual undertaking that utilizes our higher-order reasoning skills.

WRONG!

Neuroscience has demonstrated conclusively what successful salespeople have long believed to be true: we make decisions emotionally, and justify them intellectually.

Take a moment and ponder the implications of that statement for organizations that are led by highly trained technical experts. When such leaders attempt to create a vision for the company and expect others to follow it, do they fully understand what they are asking?

“Resistance to change” is also a myth.

People do not resist change; rather, they fear loss. And all change involves some kind of loss. That is why, to gain full buy-in for new initiatives, an effective leader knows how to “listen for the loss” – that is, how to discern what people fear that they are losing or have lost in the change. This understanding – that leadership requires emotional intelligence, in addition to vision and excellent communication skills – is what sets our workshops apart.

So what is the solution?

The solution is to build in your leaders an awareness of both the intellectual and emotional aspects of decision-making, based on the best research currently available. Then couple that with practical exercises designed to emphasize the right communication skills (both speaking and listening effectively), which are not necessarily the ones popularized by the conventional wisdom. Who better to lead you through this than a communication expert who epitomizes left- and right-brain integration?

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