Imagine yourself at your desk, late in the day, and you just realized you have a breakdown on your hands. If you are like most people, you may think to yourself, “what am I going to do about this?”

What most people mean by “what am I going to do about this?” is: “what am I going to say to fix this?” The higher up an organization you go, the more importance is placed on proper messaging. Listen to a senior executive (or a politician) and you will realize that proper messaging, to the board, to peers, and to the workforce is the primary avenue through which problems are overcome and results are produced.

People are not listening to you because you are not listening to them

The problem with the approach that emphasizes what needs to be said to resolve an issue lies in a basic reality about human beings: if you are not listening to them, they are not listening to you.

Focusing on what we need to say at the expense of listening to what others are saying eliminates the two-way conversation needed to have anything meaningful happen. Think of your own experience as an individual: those people for whom a genuine two-way conversation was absent were likely not the people that brought out the best in you.

Transformational leadership requires listening and speaking

The way to impact people’s behavior first lies in thoroughly understanding what others are trying to say. People speak not only through their words but also through their actions and their body language. Try listening for the following:

  • What breakdowns are they trying to surface?
  • What frustrations are they experiencing?
  • What commitments do they have for themselves and for the group?
  • What opportunities do they see to make things better?

Where Transformational Leadership Happens

Transformational leadership happens when one listens carefully for what people are trying to say and then speaks in a way that’s a match for what’s important to the people they are leading.

Something else happens when we listen to others first. Once people experience being listened to, they are more likely to listen in return, and more likely to being open to what you have to say.

Instead of asking yourself, “what do I need to say to these people to get them on board?” consider asking yourself: “what do I need to listen for that’s important to them?”

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