Berger Leadership Blog

Categories: Leadership

Use this strategy to transform your leadership

Dan BergerAs leaders, we're always searching for the magic combination of skills to motivate our teams, run our organizations efficiently, meet member/customer demands, and stay viable in competitive markets. In our pursuit of all of this, there is one strategy that underscores it all.


Especially in times of crisis like we're in now, listening is critical for leaders. There is a lot of uncertainty and we don't have all the answers. But, listening to your executive team, stakeholders, employees, and members/customers can help inform decisions. It also strengthens relationships by building trust and loyalty.

In a recent post, leadership expert Art Petty touts "fierce listening" as a skill leaders need to develop now. He highlights research and an informal poll that reinforce how this skill can make individuals feel valued and heard.

Here are his tips to develop your fierce listening skills:

  1. Commit: Internalize the need to strengthen your effectiveness as a listener. Intentionally work to kick bad listening habits and practice new ones.
  2. Assess: Establish a baseline for your listening skills. Getting feedback from those around you is an important aspect of self-improvement.
  3. Recognize: Learn to identify your listening traps. Understand how being distracted or proclivity to drive conversation can sabotage your listening.
  4. Frame: Set your days up for listening success. Develop a strategy for how you will work on your listening – just as you would any other performance initiative – and track your progress.
  5. Engage: Employ listening tactics in the moment. Show people that you were engaged in the conversation by asking follow-up questions to confirm what you heard or repeating your takeaways.
  6. Strengthen: Train your brain. Petty recommends taking a two-second pause when someone finishes speaking to process what they said and give them space to continue on if they need it. He also gives tips on how to "reset" if your mind drifts or you interrupt.
  7. Tune in: Look for weak or dissonant signals. While it may be hard to gauge when most of our conversations during the pandemic are done over phone and email, if someone's tone or response doesn't align with what you're hearing probe to understand.
  8. Extend: Teach your groups fierce listening practices. As a leader, you set the example for your team. Encourage employees to also implement this practice to strengthen teamwork, problem solving, and a better office culture.

One of the most fulfilling parts of my job is meeting with credit union leaders. It gives me an opportunity to hear directly from them on what's going on in their communities and at their institutions, and what support they need from my organization.

The pandemic has limited my ability to do this in-person, but it has given me new opportunities. One way my organization is doing so is by hosting virtual events and town halls that bring us all together. For those interested, we'll be hosting a State of the Industry virtual event June 25 to explore ways the pandemic has changed our operating environment and share strategies for a more successful recovery.

Follow me on Twitter (@BDanBerger)

About the Author

B. Dan Berger, President and CEO, NAFCU

Dan BergerB. Dan Berger first joined NAFCU in 2006 and helped turn the association into the premiere advocate for the credit union industry. Since becoming president and CEO in 2013, Berger, who is also an author, economist, and one of Washington's top lobbyists, is credited with bringing national attention to key policy issues, while ensuring NAFCU's members meet policymakers at the highest levels of government.

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