Listening is respect.
When I take the time to listen to you—-really listen—-I am showing you that I respect your insights and that I respect you as a person. People want to be respected, and this is especially true for the people who report to you. They truly appreciate your willingness, as the leader, to value their opinions.
When they know that their ideas will be listened to, they in turn give more respect to the leader and work harder in their position within the organization. They feel they are an important part of making the organization the best it can be.
I first heard this expression from a high school football coach, Gordie Gillespie of Joliet Catholic High School at the time, at half-time of a game. After he had listened to the offensive players answer his questions on exactly how the defense was playing, he was ready to give his second half adjustments. Prior to giving the adjustments, he told the players to “Give me your eyes.”
Obviously, he felt if he had their eyes, he very well may have their minds. I took this concept into my forty-four years of basketball coaching and my listening. In basketball, you have a total of only one minute for a time-out. First, I would quickly listen to my assistant coaches’ inputs, then I would go to the huddle to give instructions to the players, having approximately thirty seconds to get our ideas across to them. So, very assertively, I would say to our players, “Give me your eyes,” prior to the instruction.
The players had to pick up the salient points of the adjustments in a very short period of time and often in a very hostile environment when in the opponents’ gym.
I then took this very same concept into my leadership position as the athletic chair. When conducting meetings or in one on one sessions with my colleagues, I gave them my eyes while they were talking. I found that by doing this, I enhanced my listening skills.
Great leaders know two things about ideas: 1) they know they do not have all the answers and 2) they never know where the best ideas will come from. Leaders who believe they have all the answers cannot be worked with. Their egos won’t allow it. I always felt they were the worst people to report to because they had no regard whatsoever for your ideas or the ideas of others in the organization.
But the best leaders were the best listeners. They knew that they wanted to listen to everyone’s input because they never knew where the best ideas would come from.
There definitely have been times in my leadership roles where the best idea actually came from the least experienced person on our team. That is why it was – and is – the best way to lead. You need to listen to everyone in your organization.