I had a fascinating conversation recently with a senior executive of a well known company. Like many sales organizations, there is a headquarters staff of 300 but the sales are generated by sales teams around the country. Of those in the main office, there are only three individuals who have had experience in the field: working with customers; selling product and seeing the projects they sell completed.
My friend, in his position has regular access with the president who is making daily decisions and in his and the sales staff's view these decisions are out of touch with customers and the realities of the business. Why? Because the president listens to those in the main office but not to those who have regular contact with the customers. In the process he is pricing the product out of the market resulting in declining sales. He is frustrated along with the large sales force.
His experience can be replicated in organizations, churches and ministries everywhere: leaders who are listening to the wrong people resulting in a myopic leadership paradigm.
The problem? To lead well we must listen to people at all levels of an organization, know their challenges and issues as well as talking regularly with the constituency they serve. When leaders listen primarily to other senior leaders without listening to those at other levels of the organization they do not get the information they need to make helpful and wise decisions.
Peter Drucker was a writer and consultant on management who knew an extraordinary amount of information on a wide variety of businesses. How did he get that information? Each morning he would call line managers in various industries to find out what was actually going on. He didn't call the senior executives, but those who dealt with the nuts and bolts of the business. They knew things that the senior staff often did not know.
In my work with churches and non-profits I watch senior leaders talk to each other but not to those who make the ministry or non-profit what it is - those at all levels of the organization who have a closer relationship with the realities, challenges and views of the constituency, therefore, hurting their ability to make the best decisions.
If you lead, ask yourself the question: Who am I listening to? Am I listening primarily to senior leaders or am I spending significant time listening to those at other levels of the organization along with constituents who can give me a much more unvarnished view of reality?
The best leaders know where they will get their best information and are disciplined in making the time to listen to all levels of the organization (along with constituents). They know that good decisions depend on good information. Who are you listening to? Are they the right people?