As discussed in an previous post, it might make some uncomfortable to use the word ‘love’ in the context of leadership. However, the practice of love in the context of leadership is both powerful and necessary. Steve Farber describes this clearly in his audio book Extreme Leadership: In Pursuit of the OS!M. What does it mean to love the people you lead? Many applications exist and all are important. My definition for the acronym LOVE embodies the actions necessary to cultivate positive behaviors that lead to successful results, and includes the following actions:
- L – Listen
- O – Observe
- V – Value
- E – Experience
The action word listen holds the key to understanding other people. By listening to others you appreciate what they are going through and in time learn to identify with them. When you listen with real intent, people start to trust you and they open up. Listening opens up the portals of communication and exchange through conversation.
The book Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high — written by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler — provides excellent direction on the importance listening has on effective dialog. They advocate the following actions to improve the effectiveness of listening:
- Be sincere: To discover important facts and stories you need to invite people to open up. When you invite people to share their views, you have to be sincere. When you ask people to open up, be prepared to listen.
- Be curious: Regardless of the behavior others exhibit, you need to show interest. If they are mad, ask questions (in a nice way) to try and get to the root of the problem. When tensions are high let curiosity, not adrenaline, shape your behavior.
- Be patient: As a leader you encounter many different personalities; some are easier to get along with than others. Exercise patience when dealing with other people. Encourage them to share their feelings and ideas and show genuine interest in who they are and what they believe in.
Effective listening requires effort. It’s an important step in understanding others and convincing them you truly care. The 2:1 ratio fits nicely: listen twice as much as you talk, and listen with twice as much intent.
The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to love their customers. One of the best ways to show customers you care about them is to truly listen to them. Too often product managers hear the words coming out of a customer’s mouth and immediately start talking about how their product will solve the problem, rather than listening to find the root of the problem and seeking answers. Most product managers understand that customers are not always right. However, it is always in your best interest to listen to them and understand what they are saying.