The Best Leaders Listen
Good leadership through a crisis means being an effective communicator even when things are hard. Especially when things are hard. Almost to the point where you are saying the same thing over and over again; that’s how you show your commitment and belief in the company’s ability to over- come a challenge. Crisis leadership looks different at every phase, so it’s important to learn what your team needs as things evolve.
When a crisis first starts, there are three things all leaders must do. Reiterate the goals and values of the organization, commit to letting those values drive decisions, and communicate.
Communicate to the point of feeling like you’re over-communicating.
However, do not forsake clarity for the quantity of your communication. Crises, by their very nature, are a form of miscommunication. Confusion comes when communication is unclear, inconsistent or lacking — or simply too much. The focus of your communication should be consistency.
Consistency is the hallmark of clarity.
The key to good communication? Good listening
When you consistently communicate during a crisis, knowing the right thing to say doesn’t just magically happen. You have to decide which words to use and how to talk to your team. That starts with good listening.
We can always be a better listener, but few of us have been taught “good listening.” You can be a good listener by hearing both the words being said and the emotions behind those words. Then, you listen for what is not be- ing said.
Sakichi Toyoda taught us the technique of the five whys. Great leaders need to ask “Why?” five times to get to the source of the concern and solve the real problem.
Questions are the heart of listening. Simple questions help you understand what your team needs to hear. What’s on your mind? What are you worried about? And then, always ask a follow-up, Anything else?
Sometimes, you have to give permission for people to go a little bit deeper.
The value of your words will go up exponentially because getting to the root of the matter helps you speak to the true concerns of your people with-out making assumptions. Your words will matter much more.
Moving from panic to power
To help initiate recovery after a crisis, don’t let up on communication. A leader is invaluable at this phase. Transparent, honest communication will help your teams move from panic to power — to move from a sense of un- limited uncertainty back to a sense of purposeful, calculated risks.
Your communication should evolve at this point, from We’ll get through this, to remind them What I’m doing today matters to our ability to get through this be healthy after this.
This is the time to start sharing your vision for the future with your teams; how it will be OK and different. Not OK but different, OK and different. OK and new. OK and maybe even better.
The buck stops with you
Of all the advantages of an organization (its technology, market share, talent), its greatest competitive advantage is its leader. This means all leaders need to make sure they are doing their part in communicating the goals, dreams, expectations, and challenges of the organization, especially during a crisis.
They say the buck stops with you. What will you do with it as a leader?
Invest the buck in your listening skills, your leadership skills, and your communications skills. Become the person your people need you to be. Leaders who listen deeply, communicate clearly and inspire others consistently have always turned difficulty into opportunity. Our industry will only grow further as we develop more listeners into great leaders—every day, not just during a crisis.
Good leaders aren’t only good during the peaks, they have to be good during the valleys. Matthew Ferrara’s lesson reminds us that while this introspection was birthed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the wisdom rings true in the face of any challenge in any industry. Set aside time to evaluate your leadership style, goals, and weaknesses. Then, work on leading with optimism, leading authentically, and leading by listening, and you’ll be leading with grit.
“In real estate and other industries, if you’re moving forward with a curious mind and a hunger to be better tomorrow than you were yesterday, you’re positioning yourself for long-term impact and lasting success.”
– Adam Contos
Three Keys to Rallying with Vision
List your company’s core values that apply in good times and bad.
How do they help guide you to act – to pursue opportunities and overcome difficulties?
Write down your expectations for the future.
How do they define your personal tolerance for uncertainty and change? When you think about taking risks, are you more focused on success or failure?
Write down three questions you should be asking more when you talk to your company and clients.
What steps can you take to improve your ability to listen deeply and turn what you learn into clear and effective communication? How do your values and vision for your organization show up in your communications with clients, employees, and other key stakeholders?