Take Time to Ask Questions and Listen

“The people in the field are closest to the problem, closest to the situation, therefore that is where real wisdom is.” When we are the ones in the trenches, we know this statement to be true. However, it is once we are on the outside and no longer in control of the situation, the idea seems to be forgotten.

Having faith in the people around you to analyze the situation and make recommendations is a role a leader must play. Without trusting those involved in the situation, all the leaders has is their perception of the situation which in turn can lead to poor decision making.

Lending an Ear

Recently, after a long week at work, I went out with a co-worker for some good music and relaxation. As the evening was coming to a close, I ran into a guy he had become very visible in the last few months at work. It turns out that he is the President of the Board of Directors and wanted to take this opportunity, in light of recent events, to discuss with me my observations.

He spent the next two hours asking me questions about proposals I had made, observations with various committees (namely the pension committee as that is my job function), my opinion on key issues facing the company in regards to benefits, and questions about my personal goals and objectives.

As the conversation continued, it became apparent that he had honest interest in what I had to say and he was equally interested in sharing his responses to my questions as I was with him. He was asking questions that went down to the root level of the corporate office; inter job functions working together, policies – if they were useful or unnecessary, strong players, weak players, and everything in between.

While the conversation came to an end he remarked that he had a better understanding of the culture of the company but he had one more question; what could they (the board) do different? My suggestion came from both the The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell
reading and the situation we were in ourselves; get out there and talk with those who are on the front line doing the work. After all, that is what he was doing.

Although it is too early to tell if our chance encounter has had any effect the board or the organization itself, I think we both came away from the experience with great optimism and outlook on the company.

No matter what position you are in within an organization, it is important to know and remember that those doing the “dirty work” are experiencing situations first hand and often will provide useful feedback. Nobody is never too important to talk with anybody in the organization. The flow of communication is key to the success of any mission, organization, or family.

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