Are You Listening to Your People?

The world is full of brilliant managers. Of course only some are actually brilliant, but all of them are geniuses in their own minds. Be they real or delusional, gifted managers nearly always share a common trait: they are not nearly as smart as they think they are.

In any human endeavor, we learn the most valuable lessons from our failures. The only lesson most of us learn from our successes is simply: I must be brilliant! This is the opposite of insight and is a major cause of managers trying to apply what they learn from past successes more broadly, often producing poor results.

Just because you think you are the smartest person in the room doesn’t mean you can’t learn from lesser mortals. I see this every day working with marketing executives. It starts with their first big promotion. Their bosses and colleagues all congratulate them for a well deserved recognition. Too often they walk away thinking “I have been rewarded for my managerial brilliance. They have recognized what I already knew: I am a rock star! To get to the next level, I need to do more of what I did to get here.” That’s usually when things start to go south.

Genius managers are bad listeners. They have so many “great” ideas (mostly their own, but some appropriated without attribution) in their heads that there is no room for outside input, particularly from subordinates. They have a grand vision of where to take their team and that vision is theirs…and theirs alone. They have no intention of sharing the glory of their successes with the worker bees.

Employees that are ignored don’t feel part of a team, and thus are not invested in the team’s success. They feel undervalued. Remember the rule: employees don’t quit companies, they quit bosses. Want to build a great team? Learn to listen.

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