Leaders: Stop Adding Value—Just Listen

Blocky PyramidI was talking with a Blanchard® coach the other day about the topic of recognition. She told me about a newly promoted VP she’s working with. He believes there is a need for just-in-time recognition in addition to the formal recognition programs that are in place within his company. I reminded the coach that Ken Blanchard calls that catching people doing things right.

As we continued on the topic, she told me how this leader wants to be very encouraging of other people in his company—and often joins team meetings to hear about the latest ideas, projects, and plans. In his enthusiasm to endorse the thinkers, he told the coach that he always “adds value.”

That’s a potential problem.

What do you think happens when he comes in as an outsider and tries to improve on a team’s decision? Our coach is going to ask, but I’d say it’s a safe guess that when this leader speaks, others stop speaking. It’s pretty hard to disagree with a VP.

While this leader has a great idea to recognize and endorse the good work of others, I’m glad he’s working with a coach to support him in this plan, because even the best intentions can sometimes have the opposite impact. Rather than offering to add value by improving others’ ideas, the real value he could add in these meetings would be to really listen. Here’s why:

  • Through listening, the VP shows team members he values what they have to say.
  • This creates a safe environment for team members to speak up and share ideas.
  • He could model the benefit of asking open-ended questions.
  • He could share the floor by soliciting input from others around the table.
  • Active listening will result in higher quality decisions that originate directly from team members.

Adding value is wonderful—but the VP isn’t the only voice of value at the table. By stopping his own reflex to fix or improve and instead truly listen to others, this new VP can generate even greater value—and more opportunities to catch people doing things right!

About the Author

Mary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D., is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, our 130 coaches have coached over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

8 thoughts on “Leaders: Stop Adding Value—Just Listen

  1. It should not be hard to disagree with anyone if you have the “right” skills to do it. Those interpersonal skills of effective communication, along with a measure of quiet confidence, uncommon courage and conscious commitment are among the best tools for disagreeing respectfully and responsibly.

    • Thank you for your comments, Gary. I imagine that when the VP engages in really listening, he will use measures of quiet confidence, uncommon courage and conscious commitment. Thus, he will hopefully model effective communication skills for all to practice and increase…which will build the trust needed for respectful disagreements. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  2. Great article Mary Ellen. The problem that occurs when a senior manager “parachutes in” is what I call the SGITR syndrome. (Smartest guy in the room). Sometimes it cripples innovation and more importantly, open discussion.)

  3. Pingback: Want to Be Heard? Listen…and Hear… | Authentic Voice

  4. Mary Ellen ..excellent post. This is an important example of the balance between humility and “uplanguaging” that is simply showing off.😇. The client must be the star.

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