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Two Ears, One Mouth

Somewhere along the way to adulthood, we tend to stop listening and learning from others. In fact, it’s worse than that. We start telling everybody what to do – and call it leadership. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Why is this the case?

The first thing that works against listening and learning from others?  Our own ego’s.

Last year, our Popeyes Leadership Team asked our franchise leaders for feedback mid-year. Going in, our belief was that our relationship was in a pretty good place; we were working well together. But we were surprised with the leaders said, “I know your heart is in the right place, but you never stop talking. When we come to town, there is a steady stream of PowerPoint presentations and very little time for conversation. It seems like you are always telling us what to do.”

Maybe no one has told you yet that PowerPoint is for ego-maniacs. Let me be the first.

If all you do is organize your persuasive arguments into slides and tell the people what to do, you have a problem. Your approach removes the need and the opportunity for your team to contribute – to participate – to collaborate on the outcomes.

Our franchisees gave us the feedback we needed that day. They said listening and learning is essential to collaborating well. Now it looks like this when we do it together:

  • We look at the information together and decide if we have a problem.
  • Then we work together to determine how to solve that problem.
  • Then we execute the solution together.

The second thing that works against listening and learning is lack of time.

When you rush a decision to the marketplace without input from your team, how does that go for you? Are there bumps in the road or is the plan flawlessly executed?

Recently at Popeyes, we have been working on revising the work routines of our restaurant general managers. We had a theory that we could create new routines which would help them be more effective in their job. But the first thing we needed to do was find out what their current routines were. Thankfully, our People Services team started at the source. They brought together a wide range of restaurant general managers. They asked them about their current routines – what was working well and where they were facing challenges. The leaders stopped talking and started listening.

In this process, the team learned that our restaurant technology was one of the barriers to effectiveness in the restaurant.  No amount of new manager routines would solve that. The team paused, considered the implications, and began working with the Technology team on better solutions for our restaurants.

This new information, this new learning, slows down the changes we want to make – but at the same time, it increases our likelihood of success.

Listening and learning feels inefficient and slow. But it is essential to leading people to the destination.

Turn off your PowerPoint slides. Slow down and listen to your team.

Silence is golden.

Robert Greenleaf, the thought leader who wrote on servant leadership years ago, challenges us with this send-off today:

“One must not be afraid of a little silence. Some find silence awkward or oppressive. But a relaxed approach to dialogue will include the welcoming of some silence. It is often a devastating question to ask oneself, but it is sometimes important to ask it – ‘In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?”    ― Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant As Leader

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