Profit from Happiness
I’m often amazed when I get the tour of corporate offices before I am hired to speak. The executives complain about lack of leadership, inspiration, and teamwork. “Do you have any suggestions?” they often ask. “Yes, a good first step would be to get everyone to stop walking with their heads down, and get them to actually look and listen to each other. Maybe the pillars of your business shouldn’t be efficiency and productivity but listening and caring. Maybe then people would feel valued and empowered. Maybe then people would be inspired to work with others,” I reply.[wcm_restrict]
MVPs are often a company’s worst leaders. They are very skilled at their work but very poor at connecting with others. They are only focused on their personal tasks, the things they need to do. That’s why they are so productive, but that’s also why so many people complain about their management, communication, and leadership.
We see a similar problem in marriages: they often don’t function properly when one partner devotes all his or her time to work. Sometimes one partner, or both, becomes too self-absorbed to ask the other how their day was or to listen to their joys and concerns. If a partner makes not listening a habit, it often leads to divorce.
The same is true in friendship or with colleagues in workplace relationships. Those who make the effort to listen and connect find that people not only trust them more but are also inspired by them. They begin to want to help and show up every day because they feel valued. They know that if they have something to say, they will be heard. We value leaders who listen because it’s much easier for us to respect someone who makes us feel understood.
Think about it. If someone on the street – someone you don’t know – asks you for a favor, you will probably tell him to leave you alone. If an acquaintance wants your time or help, you might hesitate, wondering what he has done for you, if you trust him, or if you feel respected by him. You might end up helping him even if you don’t feel heard and respected. And even if you don’t trust him, you still might perform the favor, but halfheartedly. You won’t be invested in it. And if you do feel invested, it might be because you feel obligated to be a good person. However, when someone you really respect and trust comes to you, someone who you know listens to you, appreciates your feedback, and genuinely cares about you as a human being—when that person asks for a favor, things are different. You want to help her and make her happy. You are much more likely to help champion her vision. You are much more willing to serve and take risks. You are motivated to do good work. You want to say yes. Why? Because you trust her. She cares about you, and you know that she will listen to you if you have a concern. You know she will not neglect you. You are confident she will be there for you if and when you need an ear or a hand.
President Woodrow Wilson once said, “The ear of a leader must ring with the voices of the people.” I couldn’t agree more. Anyone, regardless of their title in the workplace or the world, can become a leader by applying this simple principle. People are inspired and motivated by those who make them feel like their voice matters. We don’t need to acquire new skills or to get a promotion to become a great leader. We need to reestablish the lost art of selfless listening — we must make sure people are heard once again.
In the name of progress, too many people have been silenced, their feelings forgotten, and their concerns washed over. This leads to loss of motivation and, in worst-case scenarios, loss of a job. “I don’t know what Bob’s deal is. He’s not very engaged anymore. He’s pretty checked out.” Why don’t you ask him how he’s feeling and listen to what he says? But we hardly ever do ask and listen. It’s a simple concept that we often overlook. We want complexity. We look for big, romantic ideals to lead our lives. We don’t realize that everything would change in work and life if we kept it simple and lent our ears more wholeheartedly.
We must start a shift in culture. We must start listening to one another. Gandhi’s words, “be the change you wish to see in the world,” are even applicable to how we might add more value to the marketplace. You should take a look at what the workplace, economy, and people of the world need, and then begin to do that, especially if no one else is. This is listening. The more you listen, the more you empower others, and you also empower yourself by becoming more valuable to others. Having real value to offer those around you is not only a sure step toward fulfillment but toward making money as well.
Excerpted with permission from Profit from Happiness by Jake Ducey from TarcherPerigee, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright 2016, Jake Ducey.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]
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About the Author
Jake Ducey is author of the bestselling Into the Wind, The Purpose Principles, and Profit from Happiness. He speaks throughout the country, everywhere from middle schools to TEDx conferences, on consciously and responsibly creating our lives. A San Diego native, you can find him online at JakeDucey.com.