There is nothing more important that a leader can do than listen.
Sadly, I recently failed a team member by not listening to them. Here was the situation – we brought on a new client and were tasked with creating an SEO strategy to increase their organic traffic. As with any new client, there was a high degree of pressure to perform and create growth as soon as possible. Under this pressure I took the reigns and built out a three month plan. I then handed the plan over to my teammate, whom would be managing the client moving forward, to execute. He took the plan and spent the next few months executing the plan that I had put together, which resulted in a growth of organic traffic.
Our goal of increasing organic traffic was achieved. My teammate followed through in the execution of the plan. All was well, right? Nope.
So where did I fail?
I failed to listen to my teammate. This was his client, so I should have given him ownership from the very start by asking him how he wanted to go about achieving our defined goal. My role should have been to listen and then enable by helping him to execute his plan. The actual result was irrelevant. Both of our plans would have achieved the goal. But as a result of my lack of listening, I didn’t give my teammate the opportunity to grow or develop his own strategic thinking.
Helping those that you lead to grow stronger, healthier, wiser, and more autonomous are the hallmarks of a servant leader. And as a result, my teammate would be more likely to serve others, which is the ultimate measurement of a servant leader. Instead, I denied my teammate the opportunity to learn, grow, and gain confidence for serving our clients in the future.
So what did I learn? To always listen first.
Image Source: Dumb and Dumber. Dir. Peter and Bobby Farrelly. New Line Cinema, 1994.