The Most Important Skill for Leaders

How do I know what the most important skill for leaders to have is? I’ve assessed and coached 6,500 executives, from Vice President to CEOs, and from startups to Global 100 companies. I should know what the most important skills are and even what the most important skill for leaders is.

To give you a hint, here’s what I believe about this skill:

  • In my 6,500 reports it’s listed the most often in the column entitled “Weaker Points.”
  • It’s not only the most common, it’s the most serious weaker point, causing the most executives to fail.
  • It’s a weaker point that can be improved.
  • Thousands of leaders have improved from a 5 to an 8 on this skill on a ten-point scale. In other words, they were previously only Fair but improved to Good.

Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a couple more hints:

  • It’s the fundamental skill used to negotiate the end of international conflicts.
  • It’s the fundamental skill I used to resolve a conflict between two executives of a Global 100 company who hated each other; the conflict was so bad the Wall Street Journal wrote articles about it and caused the company’s market capitalization to decline hundreds of millions of dollars.

More hints?

  • It’s the fundamental skill used to resolve marital differences.
  • There are entire books and day-long workshops about this skill.
  • You can dramatically improve on this skill in the next few minutes, just by following my easy-to-do advice.

What is this skill? ACTIVE LISTENING.

Play back to the person you are speaking with their point of view to their satisfaction. Ask them, “Did I summarize your points accurately?”

The other person will feel understood – of course, they just told you “Yes,” you summarized their point of view to their satisfaction. Do this several times and they will listen more and more to you. Maybe they will pick up the active listening technique and repeat back to you your point of view and ask you if they summarized it to your satisfaction.

But they don’t have to be a great active listener. It only takes one to tango, one to use the method, one to make someone feel so understood that they let down their guard and really listen to YOU.

The 10-dime technique. Tens of thousands of leaders have done this: start the day with 10 dimes in your left pocket and every time you repeat back to someone their points on something to their satisfaction, take a dime and put it in your right pocket. When you end the day with 10 dimes in your right pocket you can be sure you earned more respect from others.

To guarantee success: Survey 10 people you work with every 6 months. Ask in an anonymous email, “How good have my listening skills been in the past 6 months?” Excellent (10), Very Good (9-8), Good (7), Fair (6-5), Poor (4-3), or Very Poor (2-1).

If, like many leaders, your score prior to using the 10-Dime Technique is 5 or less and you improve to 7 or more, you will be perceived as:

  • A better listener
  • A better leader overall
  • More empathetic, sympathetic, and understanding (i.e. higher in Emotional Intelligence)
  • More fair-minded
  • A better team player
  • More respected

And here is the bottom line: If you score 6 or less you are limiting your career success. If you score 7 or higher you will turbo-boost your career.

I hope this helps you. I promise you, if you use active listening as described above, you’ll feel more successful and be more successful, and as a special bonus: your spouse, kids, or significant other will appreciate you more!

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