Setting Up Powerful Listening That Elicits Critical Conversations

Blog Post Breakthrough Results

Leaders can set the stage for powerful listening that empowers all levels of employees to speak up about what might otherwise be intimidatingly critical conversations. Imagine this scenario – or maybe it’s one you know intimately. You have several managers in your organization who have been tapped to be part of a major breakthrough project that when successfully completed will represent an astounding success for your company and its sustainable future. Being part of the team is incredibly exciting, demands tremendous performance from all team members, and represents a significant opportunity for you to advance your own career while stretching the skill set of your newly emerging management team. There’s just one problem: you may be blind to just how intimidating it can be for new or young managers to deliver contrary views, missed deadlines, or other critical information.

Who You’re Being—Unapproachable or Inviting Discussion?

“I’m afraid this approach may not work …” These can be the hardest words for many otherwise very capable professional to muster, especially when the intended recipient is you sitting with the senior level executive team within the organization. Fear of reprimand or unintended career limiting consequences seems to freeze the feet and vocal cords of the most articulate and otherwise forthright individual. It’s as if a neon sign were flashing: Warning, senior executives can appear larger-than-life and incredibly terrifying up close and personal. So how can you as a senior executive make it abundantly clear that you need and appreciate information your management team conveys, the lack of which can otherwise thwart their own performance or desired results for the company? Who you’re being – that is, how you’re showing up – makes the essential difference as to whether your team feels safe to come forward with to comfortably confront, push back, or counter propose your point(s).

Position Yourself as a Champion for Your Team

Constantly instilling in your communications to your management team that you are their advocate for adding value to the organization, producing remarkable results, or strongly advancing their career, depends on delivering such courageous critical information to senior executives is essential. And then whenever your management team speaks, listen generously, thanking them for their spoken contribution. No executive wants to be caught off guard or have to make uninformed decisions in an information vacuum that ultimately yields poor results. Remind your managers that surfacing critical information and ideas not only provide them visibility to your fellow senior leaders but also can engender deep appreciation and respect for them. Relationship is the foundation for results, and you are their champion who helps nurture those all-important, high-level relationships.

Listen Generously—and Support Your Team to Fellow Leadership

Empowering your management team with the expectation to openly converse about critical and even controversial topics reminds the team they have special purview to essential information otherwise completely obscured from the senior executive team. Sharing that key intelligence with you and other high-level executives who can agilely act on it and make important decisions for the organization can make or break the overall impact of your most-prized initiative, if not the entire success of it. Remaining constantly vigilant of how you’re showing up for your team, inviting what they may believe is their most vulnerable voice to lend on matters is your lever for to elicit critical conversation toward the results everyone wants. Presence yourself as authentically approachable to help your team find their voice, speak up, and contribute their very best to your organization. Listen with all your might when they do speak up, and acknowledge their contribution. And finally, this is crucial – be prepared to support and defend them when your colleagues may be quick to render judgment they may not be ready or equipped for, reinforcing their voice and modeling superb leadership skills for your organization to emulate.