Listening as a Leader. Why it’s important?

Listening as leaders

Being open to feedback and listening for input from all sources can benefit leaders immensely. True leaders are open to feedback and they understand that growth comes from listening to different views. 

One such instance of a leader listening to employees resulted in the birth of Six Sigma in Motorola – a methodology that ensures operational excellence in organizations. Pioneered by Motorola, it was later adopted by other companies such as GE and Ford to achieve operational superiority. 

The Birth of Six Sigma

During the year 1979, Motorola began to realize it had lost market share in many key segments like televisions, car radios and semiconductors. During a company officers’ meeting, Motorola’s President and CEO Bob Galvin asked the question, “What’s wrong with our company?” 

Many executives began voicing the standard excuses. Blame it on the Japanese, blame it on the economy in general, blame it on weak research and development.

While all this was going on, a lone voice in the back of the room spoke up loudly “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with this company… our quality stinks!” That voice was Art Sundry, a sales manager for Motorola’s most profitable business at the time. 

Everyone thought he would be fired for this bold assertion. How could someone make such a statement?

But, Galvin listened to Sundry’s explanation of why he said what he said. The highly credible industrial leader he was, Galvin then proceeded to validate Sundry’s assertions by visiting Motorola’s factories, shipping docks and other operations. He was someone who took quality seriously and so went all the way to individual end-users. And they told him “your quality stinks.”

It was a rude awakening for Galvin and for Motorola, which had a rich history of producing high-quality, low-cost, reliable products.

Galvin summoned Motorola engineers who were asked to reduce the number of errors in their products before they were even shipped out of their factories. Bill Smith, an engineer and scientist at Motorola, developed a methodology that would reduce the number of defects. He created the original statistics, and formulae and initiated the implementation of the Six Sigma methodology. A leader paying serious attention to feedback paved the way for advent of Six Sigma.

Having a company culture where people will bring their ideas to work has been associated with many important outcomes in areas such as productivity, employee engagement, retention and innovation. Leaders play a pivotal role in shaping such a culture in their organisations.

About The Author
Vinod Krishna

Vinod Krishna is a brand storytelling trainer and consultant at DustyPaths.
He brings 3 decades of experience in leading people, projects, and businesses
to forge new paths in storytelling, communication and leadership development.
He is an avid barefoot runner, trekker, theater artist, and photographer.
Connect with him on LinkedIn

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