Design office of
Łukasz Tyrała

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☃️ · Kraków


A job of a manager is to listen first. Listen first is about genuine interest, rumbling with vulnerability, time to listen, and empowerment to others.

It is easy to find tips that managers need to listen. There are tens of books, articles and social media posts about that. Some compare managers to parents. Others frame listening as a way for others to feel good.

It is way harder to understand what the listen first approach stands for and what comes after listening.

Genuine interest. Listen first does not mean giving time to speak. Listening here is not a trick. Managers need to absorb the message, understand it, and take it as is, without an urge to twist words someone said for their use.

Rumbling with vulnerability. Listen first acknowledges that managers do not know everything and specifically do not have all the answers. Managers should allow existing answers to be heard, not to come up with their own, even if that means that the ideas were someone else (for some people, that seems uncomfortable, as they think, that the manager should be the one to come up with answers).

(This is especially true for managers joining an organisation. It is funny when managers new to the organisation believe that only they have thought about something, and tens of people did not.)

Time to listen. Listen first is about creating space for team members to come in and share their ideas, doubly, thoughts and struggles. One-on-one slots, weeklies, yearly reviews are not enough. At work, things happen unpredictably.

Empowerment. Listen first, when constructed from an interest in what others have to say, vulnerability and time to absorb, allows empowering teams and individuals to come up with great ideas, take ownership of them, and being recognised for their work.

Every manager (of people or products) is accountable for not listening first, thus making people miserable and teams ineffective.

Managers should not strive for a spotlight. The role is about controlling the spotlight, seeing the stage, not being on it, clapping when the play is over, not catching flowers thrown at the scene.

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