When I was a young junior hotel manager, I knew it all. I knew everything about running a hotel, the restaurant, the kitchens, and the rooms. After all, I was studying for a degree in hotel management and had worked in every department. When a member of staff had a problem, I had a solution. When a guest had a question about something, I always had the answer. Not just any answer, I had the best answer! At the time I thought that I was a terrific leader. After all, everyone did what they were supposed to do and they did it quickly, or they faced the consequences, or I would yell louder until they got the message. I tell you, I knew every solution to every single questions, problem, difficulty. I was an excellent hotel manager and a total twat of a leader because I neglected to ask questions. Take a moment to think about one person in your life who was a great leader. Perhaps your boss, maybe a parent or an uncle. That individual who helped you grow and whom you willingly followed. I am completely certain that they asked you questions. See, there I go again, giving you the answer. So let me re-phrase that. This individual, who you remember as a great leader in your life, did they ask you questions? Are you listening, really listening? When your Doctor is listening to the slight murmurs of your heart, you know they need to listen real closely. Politicians and many bosses seem to have forgotten how to listen to the undercurrent of opinion. In this past year of 2016, we've witnessed a sea change in the world that has taken many by surprise. The rise of popularism in politics has placed Duterte in charge in the Philippines. We've seen the belligerence and nationalism in the Brexit vote, and now we have Donald Trump as President-elect of the US after a campaign that tapped into the desire of many in the US to overturn the establishment and blame anyone and everyone else for all that ails society. The more liberal voices are appalled that their society, their fellow citizens, their neighbours could be swayed by voting for expressions of bigotry, misogyny, racism and nationalism. After all we live in a truly connected and global world. Surely rationalism will prevail… but no, emotions won the day. And somehow, we are surprised. The simple fact is that the established powers that be had stopped listening to the murmuring. They didn’t like what they heard and discarded it as the mutterings of a few disenchanted people who truly couldn’t possibly believe what they were saying. Just because those in power stop listening does not mean that the feelings aren’t true. Perhaps it wasn't a real problem, but it became a problem because the leaders stopped listening because they didn’t like what they heard, It didn’t fit with their belief system, let alone their politics. The assumption in Brexit was that the citizens of the UK would realise how rational and sensible it was to stay in Europe, and anybody who disagreed was a racist, bigot or any other label of 'badness'. It matters not whether the anti-immigration argument is good or not. What matters is that no-one was listening. When I was a kid and my mum would nag me about something, I learned the art of not listening. It was a fantastic ploy. She would ask me to do some chore. I would ignore her. She might try again and again, each time raising her voice. I could easily continue to ignore her shouts until I heard movement and the threats would start. I would usually end up complying but filled with resentment and inside, I would be muttering loud enough to be heard but with the words indistinct. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and whilst they're speaking? You're waiting with eager anticipation for a pause so that you can launch in with your opinion? Of course, you haven’t, because you are a much better person than I am. Perhaps your boss is misguidedly suggesting that you have not performed well enough and you are just aching to leap to your own defence. Or one of the pe
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