So smart you don’t have to listen…

Lack of listening betrays lack of empathy.

Geoff Wilson

 Are you too smart to listen?

You know that feeling: It’s that feeling that you already know the end of the discussion, so you don’t really have to be patient enough to listen?  Or, maybe it’s that feeling that your position of authority means you don’t have to listen.

It gets to you.  It especially gets to you if you don’t watch out for it.

Recently, I spent some time alongside a few consultants from a “top tier” firm after being away from them for quite a while.  What struck me was their lack of focus on others…their lack of listening.  It seemed that the lack of listening was built into the cultural model that comes with competitive upper tier strategy consulting. I remember it, but I hadn’t “felt” it for a while.

That model is built around being smart.  It’s built around knowing the facts better than the client.  It’s built around being more assertive than your next best peer (so that your superiors know you know what they don’t know).

And, here’s the rub…  In today’s age, it’s exceptionally hard to be the smartest person in the room. Access to information is quite broad. Demand for cultural sensitivity is commonplace. Skepticism of strategic platitudes is growing. This means that a pretty much nobody is smart enough not to listen.

And so, I’ll say it this way: You are not too smart to listen.  You may think you are, but you aren’t.  And, that guy or gal who sits back in the room and listens for a while?  Just remember that still waters run deep.  Honor it.  Don’t throw it away with the old “he didn’t add anything” trope.

Professionals who lack consistent ability and discipline to listen usually lack empathy in most other parts of their professional profile.  Which brings me to the point of this post:  Too smart to listen is all too often too smart to actually lead.

What do you think about that?