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Leaders Listen Passionately


Active Listening is the Greatest Learning Tool

Often we hear leaders chatter on endlessly about their “intent”, “visions” and how the teams should flower under their tutelage. They never tire of torturing an audience till the organisation tires out of the “How” that the leader explains with such disdain each time he gets an opportunity. This is accentuated if the employees only get to listen to the leader and are seldom allowed the latitude to articulate their own aspirations and visions about either the task at hand,  the organisation or the team.

When they listen, they “hear” with a view to out talk the led. Such leaders start the cycle of cynicism in an organisation, especially when the leaders are not able to Walk their Talks. Teams hang on to every word, motion or activity of the leader. While a blabbering leader may forget what he said yesterday – the team remembers – and thus starts the Chinese whisper in an organisation, disempowering the teams across verticals.

Good leaders listen and listen actively to absorb the aspirations and callings of each member of the team. This helps them find each team member’s true calling. There is nothing more motivating in an environment where a team member feels confident to explain his point of view succinctly and without parental oversights by the leader. This simple habit of the leader energises the team members and motivates them with an optimism that their views would be heard passionately towards the larger good of the organisation. They then push the envelope as active participants in the growth of the organisation.

It is true that leadership and mentoring are not a one-size-fits-all propositions. “Different strokes for different folks” is more like it. Some people need a lot of direction or hand-holding; others need autonomy and freedom to experiment and grow. Some team members may need different things at different times, depending on challenges that arise, the level of difficulty in job assignments, and the ebb and flow of motivation. Amongst all these variations, leaders can rarely afford to stop listening passionately- it helps keeping their ears to the ground and invert the pyramid in an environment of trust and mutual respect.

This passion is contagious across all levels of leaders and the led, where leaders automatically produce leaders and not mere followers. This creates an enabling environment where the “why” overrides the “how” and unleashes the true potential of each team member.

Active listening accentuates an organisation’s trajectory in geometric progression and provides the leader with the most vital component of organisational success – feedback.

As they say in the military, “passionate leaders lead by actions not words”.


Applying System’s Approach

As the name suggests, system’s approach is applicable to solving, streamlining and check listing various components of any issue at hand from picking apples to running conglomerates. Plenty of literature is available on the subject including integrated automated models. However, application often skips comprehension where the system’s approach becomes an end rather than a means to achieve the end. That scares people away.

It is a systematic procedure to identify the main ingredients of the problem, analyse various missions essential (METL – Mission Essential Task Lists) to achieve the task, evolve multiple Terminal Objectives (TOs) for each of the tasks and thereafter evolve enabling and learning objectives (EOs and LOs) for each terminal objective. This process of analysis provides a logical approach to analyse all perspectives of a problem before you begin to solve it.

Initially it takes some time to get used to this systematic evaluation technique but once it is in place – solving the problem systematically becomes a cakewalk – without glossing over the key components of the problem. It, as we said earlier applies to all walks of life.

Let us say you want to train your Perception Management team (Don’t have one?).

First step is to identify your basic perception management problem – what are those key issues that need to be addressed to project your organisation. They decide the METL – draw out a list viz existing perceptions about your brand, the gaps in perceptions and what perceptions do you want to commit to market’s memory. Is your team equipped and are there adequate creatives and branding experts available. If not do you intend hiring or outsourcing and so on till you arrive at the desired list

Having drawn up the METL in detail flowchart each of the Terminal Objective that would result in your Mission of good branding achieved in relation to your existing brand image in the market. These could be related to products, people, tools or approaches with suitable themes.Identify the training needs for each as you go along.

Each TO will have a few EOs and LOs which will enable you to achieve the TO effortlessly and enable wide based learning without missing out on any detail. This tree gives an overview of each step from the intent to the EO and LO.

The Military uses it effectively

Now based on this tree, draw out the gaps in information, people, resources and approaches to develop suitable themes to meet with the METL requirements. The training parameters, tools, methods and syllabi can now be orchestrated to train the team. Combine the e learning module and you save time on class room training. QED.

Initially you may take some time to start getting used to this problem solving system. But with practice it will become an approach you wouldn’t want to do with out. While the topic is vast, it’s application overtime can become innate, helping you approach daily problems systematically. Started in the armed forces to meet the training needs termed SAT, the system, as we said earlier can be matured for every human activity.

CWG 2010 would have been a different story had SA been applied to it on nomination of Delhi as the venue. Well may be next time!