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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Jones

Can Leaders Relearn How to Listen?

I don’t believe that companies can really have values – however, people certainly do. What we call corporate culture is the interaction of our values in the workplace, at scale, and over time. The values I personally hold dearly – humility, family, even competitiveness – will always define how I do business. I find it much easier to stay true to these values than to conform to predetermined values when I enter the office. It can happen, though, that we overemphasize the corporate at the expense of the personal. That can lead us to forget our most important skill as leaders: listening to others.

As an entrepreneur and a leader, we absolutely must listen to those around us – our customers, our people, our competitors. It’s an integral part of our DNA here at Our role and the success of our organizations often revolve around interpreting what someone needs and translating that to someone else who can fill that need. Listening becomes even more critical when considering the globalized world we now live and work in – defined by vastly different cultures, backgrounds, and values operating together at close quarters.

However, when we don’t listen, we automatically assert our own values over others. At the same time, we feel like those personal values are constantly under threat and need to defend them continuously. You can post as many company values around the office as you like, but if people don’t feel like their personal values can thrive, your business can only last so long. At, we aim to foster a culture where everyone working for us, whether in London or Singapore, can bring their personal values to work – where we can learn and benefit from one another and respect different viewpoints and opinions. Ultimately, to the benefit of the entire organization and the customers we serve.

Learning from tradition

After spending a fair part of my working life in Asia, I’ve noticed a common factor in different parts of the region: people tend to adopt what I might call an honest approach to business. Respect and relationship-building still play a primary role in how organizations operate, and loyalty – once earned – is rarely lost. Those relationships are becoming more vital, even as they come under increased pressure. Because of what we do at, we get a front-row seat to just how quickly businesses are assigning specialized work to our digital personars.

By their very nature, those personars accelerate the pace at which many organizations operate. That can quickly create an environment where there seems to be little to no time for the relatively slow relationship-building process. Yet those relationships, built on listening and empathy, are, in fact, the best way by which any business can differentiate itself from others. You can’t automate relationships – and that’s why they’re more important than ever before.

How can we, as leaders, relearn to listen? One way is to turn our attention towards other people actively. The more we automate our organization’s technical and mundane parts, the more time and attention we can invest in what really gives us purpose and fulfillment: understanding others’ situations, hearing their needs, and helping to meet them. The more attentive we are to others’ perspectives, the easier it is for our values to coexist and find common ground.

All of us are people first, and professionals second – and as people, I would suggest our true purpose is to do good, whatever field or role we’re in. That’s why at, we have a dedicated offering to support non-profit organizations around the world. As leaders, doing good requires us to listen closely and constantly to those we serve: our customers, our people, our partners. An increasingly automated and digitized world frees us up to live out our values and do good. It’s what we’re best at and what no machine can ever do.

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