If listening is so easy, why does it remain a competitive advantage in business?
I agree with Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” that the ultimate competitive advantage is teamwork; because, as he writes, “it is so powerful and so rare.” Without emphasis on listening, however, teamwork suffers.
Some of the hallmarks of strong teams that Lencioni points out hinge on good listening. In his view, functional teams:
- Avoid distractions
- Identify potential problems quickly by questioning each other’s approaches without hesitation
- Take advantage of opportunities before competitors do
- Extract and exploit the ideas of all team members
- Accept questions and input about team members’ areas of responsibility
- Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion
- Admit weaknesses and mistakes
- Ask for help
At ROUSH CleanTech, I have the privilege of working with dedicated teammates who put egos aside to collaborate for the good of the customer, and therefore the good of ROUSH CleanTech. To nourish our teams, we are committed to one fundamental thing: listening. We listen to our customers, our competition and to one another. And, while our teamwork is our ultimate competitive advantage, it is our knack for listening that allows us to ask and answer the right questions at the appropriate time.
For instance, when the EPA stated that exposure to nitrogen oxide (NOx) can lead to health problems such as asthma and other respiratory issues, ROUSH CleanTech listened. We followed the California Air Resources Board’s suggestion to reduce NOx levels in heavy-duty engines and developed the first propane autogas engine available in class 4-7 vehicles and Blue Bird Type C buses. These new engines are 75 percent cleaner than the current emissions standard — and they offer a needed solution in the truck and school bus market.
We feed our team members initiatives that allow them to invest their time in worthy cause after worthy cause. When they see a winning streak, all they want is to play again and win again. Here lies the management challenge: Just like the human body, your team excels when you pay attention to what you feed it and when it is fed. The best way to know what your team needs to excel is to listen.
So, here’s your fuel for thought: Are you really a good listener? How good could your team be if you practiced listening to one another? Comment below, send me an email or join the conversation here.