Mayfly Logo

Published: 10 Jan 2022

Did you really listen to what was just said?

Often, we talk to leaders about the need to future vision, medium- and long-term strategy and where they want their business to be in a few years’ time, or even longer. 

Whilst this is vital to enable them to give employees direction, this ‘future thinking’ can often result in a loss of connection with their people, who are generally more focussed on more immediate things.

Looking forward is just one skill a leader needs and often we find that the balance is too much towards ‘tomorrow’ and less focussed on ‘today’. 

So why is that important?

Employees are often detached from leaders because they don’t talk the same language or have the same points of reference. Whilst a leader may want to talk about the future, the vision and the strategy and employee is often ‘managed’ to think about today’s work or the tasks for the week. 

So, leaders sometimes need to throttle back on their thinking to be able to communicate with their people when then can whilst maintaining the need to lead to the future as well. Who ever said leadership was easy after all! 

And what can leaders do about that?

If you listen to high performing sports people or leaders for a while and you will most likely hear the phrase ‘in the moment’ or ‘being present’. 

Within the leadership workshops we design and deliver we talk to delegates about focussing on the things that are already going on around them. By noticing what’s already happening, what people are saying, the feelings you get when you talk to people (you’ll know if they like you or not) and observing the signs they give you. In this way leaders can often understand much more than they perhaps planned for before they started the conversation. 

The clues of what subjects are important to employees are often all-around leaders a lot of the time, missing them can be harmful. 

Imagine if an employee, or a team of employees, feel strongly about something and their leader doesn’t acknowledge it, how are they likely to feel? Perhaps its will only be to feel not listened to about that item, but imagine if that was the modus operandi of the leader all the time? The employees would feel disregarded and potentially could feel a lack of trust in that leader. Plenty is written about the importance of two-way trust in business, which we cover in another short article, but simply noticing something and them reacting to it, is important. It may mean that a leader has to adapt their pre=planned approach though.

Much is talked about trust when you read about leadership. Words like authenticity, empathetic and engaging are often used. But to build trust you need to start with the  feelings, thinking and actions of employees. They are telling you something all the time. 

Missing the clues is not a great way to become the best leader. 

Neither is waiting until the latest employee opinion survey to indicate that the trust scores are diminishing, there is uncertainty in the of vision, or that there is a reduction in respect for the manager. The damage has already been done!

To mend the relationships takes lots of time and effort and which is often weighed against the needs of the business. So why not start to notice what’s really happening now?

As this thinking piece states earlier, ‘stuff’ is happening all the time which can give leaders clues about how to engage straight away.

Tackling things ‘in the moment’ though means that leaders must behave differently.

  • Listen more - because that’s when you hear more about what’s going on. So less telling and more listening is required

  • Be more inquisitive – get people to talk more about what’s important to them

  • Notice them – you’ll find out plenty about the way people are thinking just by observing their eyes, body language and mannerisms

  • Think about how you may be perceived – if you can be careful about what you say to media or institutional investors then why not be the same for your people – they often matter more!

  • Be interested – they may already know what you’ve done in your career, find out more about theirs

There are many more …

Mayfly enables leaders to be more aware about how they can both think about the strategy of the business and how to be more present with their people. Getting the balance right is often vital to ensure long term success, based on total commitment today!

©2022 Mayfly Consulting ltd