"I disagree. I don't think that is the way we should go." Then he proceeded to offer another option. A different person said, "No, I don't think that is the right answer," and then she explained her thoughts. I had just slipped into the room and was observing a leadership meeting that was taking place. The leader had offered an idea but his team was not on board. Instead they were offering other solutions. Throughout the meeting the group shared diverse opinions about a variety of subjects. It was obvious that the leader was listening and allowing each person in the room to be heard. Some of the issues were resolved by going a different direction from what he suggested. Other decisions were resolved by the leader making a decision and communicating it to the team. No one in the room had all of the right answers but everyone was heard.
Later, I spoke to one of the team members and asked about the lively discussion. He said, "This leader has totally changed our culture. We used to be criticized or punished for disagreeing with the team's leader. That led to little or no discussion and a dictatorial working relationship." He continued, "The result was low morale and mediocre productivity. Now we all feel like we have a voice and that reflects in how each of us leads our team. It has been a game changer for us." Interestingly, when I spoke to the team leader it was obvious that he not only respected each member of his team but he truly cared about every individual. He made it his business to know them personally and to develop a relationship with each one.
In order to be successful in hearing others, we must commit ourselves to humility. It is said that the most important thing in any relationship is respect. There is no greater way to demonstrate respect for someone than allowing him/her to be heard. Humility listens to understand and not to have the next comeback or "one up" reply. It is just as important to feel heard, as it is to "feel right". In other words, when we truly listen we say to that person "you are valuable enough for me to hear you". Listening is not agreeing and may lead to a decision to agree to disagree.
When I talked with other members of this leader's team, I discovered a tremendous loyalty and respect for him. Interestingly, he had only been leading this team for less than a year. In that short time he had given and garnered respect from those he led.
Choose to demonstrate a collaborative attitude that centers on listening with humility and you will make a difference!