The role of CEO can come with the expectation that you talk – others listen.
The reality is that the best learnings in leadership come from listening.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my role is meeting with clients and listening to their feedback on the work we've been doing for them. That busy clients take time to provide feedback is something neither I nor the firm take for granted.
And while human nature is such that we like hearing the positives, it's the constructive feedback on what we can do better that is invaluable.
Likewise, listening to other CEOs and industry leaders outside of the law provides perspective. In speaking at a recent CEO Connect event about the importance of building the right organisational culture, it was listening to others on the panel that provided me with somewhat of a sanity check. A whole range of organisations are collectively facing the challenge of recruiting and retaining talented people – not just the professional services sector.
As well as sharing information, listening can provide inspiration.
At our recent Local Government Forum attendees heard from The Hon. Minister Rob Stokes MP and Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons AO AFSM.
Minister Stokes, whose portfolio includes Infrastructure for NSW, warned that too much risk aversion or red tape stymied sound decision making. Commissioner Fitzsimmons, who heads Resilience NSW, spoke about how when we look after our own mental health, we become better leaders who make better decisions.
Of course, in a world of online influencers and inspirational quotes on Instagram, just who to listen to is a challenge in itself.
Algorithms also tend to drive us to views we already hold rather than expose us to uncomfortable truths or alternate voices.
Plus, we are emerging from a pandemic where at times more of a command-and-control style of leadership was necessary.
All of this has meant that improving the art of listening has never been more important.
I most certainly don't profess to be an expert at it.
Through a recent experience I can though attest to its power.
Last month I had to travel overseas at short notice to visit a family member who was unwell.
We've all faced those situations where our personal and professional lives intersect, and you need to shift your focus unexpectedly and quickly.
In my absence others at the firm stepped in, stepped-up or helped out to ensure we didn't miss a beat.
In having a culture where we listen to each other at the firm, people not only could see what was required but were empowered to step in and make that happen.
Listening then is not passive - it is powerful.
It avoids a single voice or perspective dictating direction, terms, or outcomes. And most importantly it empowers individuals, teams, and organisations.
Thanks for listening.