Challenges: Who Has Your Ear?

By Dana Gillis, Executive Coach

When a challenge presents itself, where do you turn for answers? Do you listen to your gut? Your inner voice? How about your heart? Maybe a better question to ask is, “Who has your ear?”

Challenges Will Always Exist

As a leader, you will always face challenges, both great and small. Some challenges are pressing and require decisions driven by the urgency of the moment. Other problems allow for careful contemplation and thoughtful decision-making. In moments of indecision, do you as a leader tackle challenges singlehandedly, or do you seek the advice and counsel of others?

Leader with challengesLearn to Listen

The Fearless Leader realizes that leadership does not reside in a single person at the top of an organization. Leadership manifests itself in many forms and on many levels. Leadership is about influence.  More specifically, leadership is about the manner in which we affect one another in pursuit of shared goals. Within this context, listening is a basic act of leadership.

When tackling a thorny issue, a leader may encounter multiple voices offering the solution to a problem. The challenge for the leader is to sort through the competing ideas to determine which recommendation leads toward the best result. A leader has to decide which voice or combination of voices to listen to in attaining the desired outcome. 

Listening can be thought of as a basic act of leadership, since everyone in an organization should have influence. Click To Tweet

Who Should You Listen To?

In determining which voice to listen to when grappling with an issue, a leader should identify what influences may color the thinking of the vessel delivering the message. There are several questions a leader should ask when facing a daunting challenge:

  • When comparing alternatives, am I guarding against giving more weight to one person’s opinion over another’s?
  • Am I, as a leader, open-minded enough to entertain alternative views to the position I’ve laid claim to as a result of the decision-making process?
  • What is the motivation of the person providing insight related to the task at hand?

The suggested questions, though not all inclusive, should be asked in addition to the standard questions a leader should consider related to risks, timing, alignment to goals and options.

So who has your ear? The Fearless Leader might answer, “Everyone!” Larry Page, Google, Inc. co-founder, believes that a leader should, “Make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact.” Listening to people within the organization and showing colleagues that they have been heard is a surefire path to making employees feel empowered. An empowered team is a team built for innovative problem solving. The leader who is willing to listen to and weigh various points of view from multiple sources is a leader who can be fearless in achieving positive actions and better results.