I had two unusual visitors today here in my home office. Jordan and Chris, two FBI agents came calling, and yes, they were both wearing dark suits and ties, although I didn’t they were not wearing dark sunglasses.
They were conducting a background check on a former colleague of mine and came to ask a few questions. (And said it was fine to blog about conversation.)
One question was what leadership qualities my colleague had exhibited. My immediate answer was that he was a great listener. My new FBI friend stopped short. He said he had been doing these interviews for a while and had never heard that answer. Really, I said, that’s a shame because in my mind it is the most critical for effective leadership.
As Beth and I are writing our book the question of where to put listening has come up time and again. Basically, we want to put it everywhere because it affects everything that an organization does, can do, should do in concert with their ecosystems. Social media are unique tools in that amplify good listening and bad listening, as well. So, for instance, it is clear when an organization has their ear to the ground and is hearing what bloggers and Twitterers are saying about the organization, and joining the conversation. All of the staff at the Sunlight Foundation are really adept listeners.
But when an organization is being talked about and the organization or company isn’t listening it’s far more aggregious. Remember the angry mommy blogger storm about the tone dear Motrin ad about all of those crazy and tired moms with sore backs from lugging their babies around in slings?
Beth has written extensively and beautifully about the power of using social media tools for listening. We ought to expect that organizational leaders are adept and appreciative of the power of listening as an important, in my mind the most important, criteria to effectively lead their organizations in the Connected Age.