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Back when I was the CEO of my industrial water treatment company I was the RSP: “Royal Smart Person”. I dispensed my blindingly brilliant wisdom for anyone coming to me and asking some version of, “What do you think I should do?” – right until the day my number 2 told me that I was a bottleneck for the entire company. The reason I so strongly disliked his saying that was because I knew in an instant that he was right.
Actually, at that time I seemed to be getting asked for advice in more venues than just at my shop, always responding to the knee-jerk imperative, “hear question, answer question; see problem, solve problem” and always with the finest of advice, I was sure. Then I decided to try an experiment.
When I was asked what I thought should be done I began to respond with a question that had eluded me until then: “Do you really want me to tell you what I think you should do?” And the answer was universally no, they did not want me to tell them what to do. That’s “universally” as in “no exceptions.”
It turned out that what people wanted – needed, really – was for me to listen to them. Some needed a sounding board for their thoughts. Some needed validation for their thinking or perhaps a thoughtful question to help them find their own best solution. Some just needed me to care enough about them to hear them out.
All were quite adept at answering their own questions and devising their own solutions, usually finding better ones than I might have conjured. But in each case my listening meant the most to them.
That’s why Fully Alive Leadership Practice #3 is: Listen.
How do you respond to being asked, “What do you think I should do?”
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