What is the most important leadership skill? Listening.
Take it from Gallup who invited Susan Brady, CEO of the Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership, to talk about this on their podcast. Susan emphasises that listening to your people creates the psychological safety they need to feel safe speaking up at work.
What are the best ways to put this into practice? Here are some practices you can use at any time within your organisation, to make sure you listen to your people’s invaluable input.
Practice listening with circle meetings
Circle meetings are great to gather ideas around a topic or problem your team needs to solve or make decisions on.
Instead of just asking into the round if anyone has any ideas, give everyone a couple of minutes to talk about what they are thinking. This way you avoid having the same people talk all the time and gather everyone’s input.
To make this really successful, there are some ground rules. Go around in a circle, only one person speaks at a time. Be respectful, honest, compassionate, empathise, don’t rant or judge, and remember time is limited. Create that psychologically safe space for your people to share how they would improve things for your organisation to become even better at what you do.
People can pass their talking time to the next person if they can’t think of anything, pause to just have silent time to think or participate and tell everyone about their ideas.
Circle meetings are useful when…
- Making sense of a complex, difficult, or painful situation and laying the ground to be able to move on.
- Generating new ideas and momentum for innovation.
- Building a shared understanding of how people develop different perspectives and ideas.
- Avoiding arguments based on lack of understanding.
- Building trust, reducing fear, and relieving strong or repressed emotions.
- Helping participants appreciate that conversations involve talking and listening.
Example: There might be a complaint in your organisation about too many meetings. You can ask your team how that is affecting their daily work and how they feel things could be done differently.