How to be an Exceptional Executive

Ezinne Okuku Written by Ezinne Okuku · 2 min read >

You may have all the technical skills in a team but when there is a gap in communication and poor listening skills; execution and result may be flawed.

It is rare and unnecessarily stressful to run an operation simple or complex without seeking input from people at all levels of the staff/ team.

Therefore, it is important to let people around you know you believe in them and they have something unique to contribute. You can achieve this by listening and doing the followings during conversations/ meetings:

Show respect

Leaders should also respect the potential to provide insights in areas far afield from his or her job description. The respect you show them will be reciprocated, and it helps fuel an environment that promotes creativity and participation in a team.

Ask insightful questions

They may just have the right solution to the problem or a better angle to gain benefits from the situation. Therefore, ask questions to prompt response and complete relay of info.

Being respectful doesn’t mean avoiding asking tough questions—good listeners routinely ask them to uncover the information they need to help make better decisions. The goal is to ensure the free and open flow of information and ideas.

Ask questions that stimulate open thinking. However, be respectful of the emotions you can trigger with this kind of speculation.

Adopt the double 80/20 principle

This is a very practical exercise that helps improve listening.

  • Speak 20% of the time during a conversation
  • Listen 80% – allow the others speak and express their ideas
  • Then speak again when necessary to clarify ideas or ask questions
  • And do so more listening as given.

It is useful for shorter, sharper, and more productive arguments or meetings. Keep quiet; Listen more – gain a better understanding of the situation and win with your

Remember: do not treat conversations as opportunities to broadcast your status or ideas. Also, do not spend more time formulating your next response than listening to the conversation partner(s).

As mentioned in my last blog, sometimes, it is better to keep quiet; listen more, else you might just misyarn.

Avoid undue interruptions

During conversations or team meetings, do not cut the conversation short by lecturing team members on good skill techniques or belittling their approach; rather listen and ask pointed questions in a respectful matter.

Obviously, I struggle with this too, because most time, I want to gain understanding of the subject matter. Often times, I interrupt with questions or proceed with solving puzzles in my head while the person is still speaking.

So, I know it is not easy to stifle your impulse to speak, but with patience and practice you can learn to control the urge. More importantly, you can also improve the quality and effectiveness of your conversations by weighing in at the right time.

My experience

If you are on this table, fret not, you are not alone.  Many even I, I’m guilty of this though consciously making efforts to be better. One experience with a client, in particular, made me realize how counterproductive it is to focus on your own ideas during a conversation.

I failed to listen actively while he explained his challenges and I already started solving the puzzle in my head. This created more problems as my solution when suggested, was an already solved challenge. It prolonged the meeting and there, I learned to truly listen.

Fortunately, we had time to discuss some more, and active listening helped me crack the case. Consequently, the solution presented and executed was brilliant, relevant, and effective for their business and identified problems.


John McLaughlin advises managers to think consciously about when to interrupt and to be as neutral and emotionless as possible when listening. Always delaying the rebuttal and withholding the interruption. Still, he acknowledges that interrupting with a question can be necessary from time to time to speed up or redirect the conversation. However, he advises managers not to be in a hurry, though—”if a matter gets to your level,” he says, “it is probably worth spending some of your time on it.”

Some people can intuitively grasp where to draw the line – between input and interruption, but the rest of us have to work at it. Guess what? it is very doable.

Until next time, stay safe and have a great weekend.

Article by Ezinne Okuku

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