My wonderful father liked to tell people that I was his kid who could chat up a brick wall. For the longest of times I was rather proud of that quality, a strength I thought. But strengths are usually the foundation for weaknesses.
Not everyone responds to someone who is overly verbal. Whether it is the unfortunate person sitting in the next seat on an airplane, or some direct report who, all things considered, would just as soon as cut to the chase, which goes something like this to the boss: shut up so we can tell you what is really going on and how we think it can be fixed.
For those of us endowed with verbal confidence, the talent for extemporaneous speech and storytelling, it is important to remember that listening can be a more important strength.
Being a good communicator is also about active listening.
The one thing I enjoy about due diligence site visits for a new CEO search or starting work with a new outplacement client, is that I ask a few questions and sit back and listen, and I encourage them to keep talking by asking follow-up questions so that I can keep learning. For a new CEO, listening and asking questions, while withholding judgment, is a smart strategy to follow in their First 100 Day Plan.
In yesterday’s podcast we said that some new CEOs shoot themselves in the foot because they fail to listen, and do not pay attention to the organization’s existing culture. That problem is not just limited to CEOs. Senior executives and managers, recruited from outside an organization are just as vulnerable to failure in the first 18 months because they did understand and use the existing culture. By the way, if you look at the research across all business sectors, the failure rate of managers and executives who are recruited from outside an organization is about 40 percent within the first 18 to 24 months of employment.
Every time you hear the phrase, “it just wasn’t a good fit”, there is more to that statement than an explanation or an excuse. There was a failure on several fronts by both the organization as well as the new employee. When analyzing why an executive or manager new to an organization was unsuccessful it would be a safe bet to make that failure to listen was at the core of the mis-hire. For the employer, their sin was more likely failure to be fully transparent.
Job candidates are expected to do a lot of the talking because they are there to answer questions and, hopefully, share by example, their values and style. But listening is just as important and the information you gain from the questions you ask, and how you hear and evaluate the information you receive, could be critical to your success at the new position. As a new CEO do not take anything for granted. Nothing.
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