“I remind myself every morning. Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King
One of the traps we fall into as leaders is the idea that we’re supposed to know everything, or at least have a well-formed opinion on everything. The result is that we spend way too much time talking. Unfortunately, everybody but us usually recognizes it.
The next time you’re with some of your team members, watch for sighing, and for eye-rolling, and for people staring blankly off into the distance. Chances are, you’ve probably lost your audience. They’re thinking, “Oh great, here’s the boss giving another speech that goes nowhere.” Trust me – I’ve seen those looks from people on my own team.
For starters, remind yourself every day that you don’t have all the answers, and you never will, and that’s OK. It doesn’t make you a bad leader. It means you’re self-aware enough to recognize that you need help.
Second, remind yourself that you’ve (hopefully) surrounded yourself with great people. I’m fortunate enough work at a place where everybody in the building is smarter than me. When I’m spending too much time talking – which happens more than I’d like to admit – I remind myself that I’m probably not helping them.
Your job as the leader is to help others be successful. Those people don’t work for you. You work for them. You need to create an environment where they can do what they do best, and remove obstacles that keep that from happening. The only way you even know what those obstacles are is to listen to what they have to say.
When you do speak, make sure that a big portion of what comes out of your mouth is questions. Don’t preach or try to impress with your knowledge. Don’t show off. Don’t try to make up for your lack of self-confidence by talking to hide your lack of wisdom.
Most of the time, though, just listen. Pay attention to what the people around you have to say. Your job is to help those people succeed, and that starts with understanding what they need from you. You won’t learn that by talking. So be quiet and do your job.