Monday, July 1, 2019

The “Deep Listening” Practices in the Boardroom

The “deep listening” skill enables the board mitigating “group thinking” and help the board better relate to their stakeholders.

Business evaluation, strategic oversight, and policy setting are always at the top list of the corporate board’s agenda. One of the biggest challenges in this complex, multi-polar world is the fact that we need different perspectives, the multitude of insights, dynamic knowledge, and alternative ways to solve emergent or old thorny problems. The digital-savvy board has to develop “deep listening” skill, gain digital awareness, shape multidimensional thinking, leverage five senses, and exercise the supervisory power effectively.

Listening and debating:
Traditional boards discuss various topics and practice compliance-driven governance discipline, but digital board directors need to listen empathetically and encourage debates to stimulate criticality and creativity. Listening & debating become the new normal in the corporate board. The digital BoDs are good listeners, they act like a sponge and absorb information, ask lots of questions. The debate is a discussion involving opposing viewpoints; deliberation; consideration, or to dispute or disagree about. Debating is a style of critical thinking activity. Even the majority of BoDs are senior executives, they need to break down the “status quo,” present learning agility and show the inquisitiveness to ask the tough questions about strategy, information & Technology, talent or risk management, and encourage healthy debating for gaining the collective wisdom. In practice, the high performing digital board shows the ability and openness to "question itself and its decisions/ discussions." When the board nurtures the listening and learning culture, it could be on the right track to building a listening-and-telling organization.

Communicating with empathy: The digital era is the age of people-centric innovation. That means you have to listen to their feedback, involve them in both idea generation and implementation, to gain insight and empathy. This is particularly important for top leaders including board directors. Because when you are in a position of authority, you have lots of opportunities to tell and lots of leeway in how to do the telling. But innovation does not start with “HOW,” it often needs to figure out “WHY” first. Thus, for them, the message is about listening with empathy! If you do not listen, you will lose the goodwill of collaboration. Talking and actively listening to one another also creates excitement which propels good ideas to be formed. Communication has occurred when the message is received and understood. Listening and communicating are critical to deal with conflicts in the boardroom, constructively advocate the fresh point of view and build the trustful business relationship which will lubricate change and improve leadership maturity.

Gaining insight and foresight: We still live in a world with abundant information, but scarce insight. We all bring different perspectives and our boundaries might have changed based on the open conversations and taking the time to listen to the diverse opinions and thoughtfully think about the specific issue and common challenges from different angles. BoDs with insight and foresight about the business can ask profound questions because they can observe thoroughly, have better critical thinking ability and learning agility. With rapid changes and shortened knowledge cycle, digital leaders like BoDs should listen to different propositions and take the systematic approaches to a problem or new interpretations for varying situations. Being insightful means that you need to dig into the root cause, not just pointing out the symptoms.

The “deep listening” skill enables the board mitigating “group thinking” and help the board better relate to their stakeholders. The important issue in the boardroom is how the board can accommodate diverse opinions and how they assess them and leverage collective insight into good decisions all board directors support cohesively, with the ultimate goal to improve leadership maturity.


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