Working with a leader the past few weeks to help her prepare for a presentation was an eye-opening experience. She had all the technical skills needed to be highly successful but was facing a new challenge- speaking in front of a large group. She did have some experience presenting her work but this was a bigger audience and she wanted to be her very best. The thing is she was not convinced she would be able to do a good job. Some of her concerns were:
“I have a great story to share but I am worried how to tell it.”
“I have such limited time to prepare and I am not sure it is enough.”
“I am wondering if I have important points to make.”
So we began to talk about her worries as well as how she was going to pull this off. What became very clear was that she was listening very carefully to grasp every kernel that was shared. She was determined to expand her abilities to become a captivating speaker. To make that happen she listened with the intent to truly understand.
Five ways to listen strategically to score big:
1. Value The Importance of Active Listening
To get our best information and learn from others, leaders need to see the importance of being a strategic listener. Know-it-alls who think they have all the answers and expertise are usually not good listeners. This leader I partnered with was ready to take in everything she could to grow her presentation skill set. Her mindset empowered her to master the new techniques.
2. Know Your Goals
For leaders to be strategic listeners they need to know what they want to accomplish in a conversation. The leader I helped knew exactly what she wanted to carry out and what her needs were. Some steps to setting up SMART goals can include:
- Be specific what you need to achieve
- Make the goal measurable so you will know if you reach it
- Be clear that it is achievable
- The goal also needs to be realistic
- Know your timeframe
Related: 5 Critical Lifelines For Leaders
3. Don’t Interrupt But Hear The Entire Message
Often easier said than done but well worth the effort. Strategic listeners force themselves to listen completely to the person sharing their information. That means not interjecting comments or ideas while the material is being rolled out. What sometimes happens when we interrupt is that we jump to conclusions before all the facts are presented. And of course the assumptions we make may be totally in a wrong direction.
4. Ask Clarifying Questions To Really Understand
After I shared my suggestions with the leader and she strategically listened, she asked some very important questions so that she could get a clear understanding of what she was going to do. She had a genuine desire to add these new presentation skills to her leadership toolbox. Ask questions that:
- Help you get a deeper meaning
- Undo any confusion
- Help you see yourself in a new light
5. Take Your Confidence To The Next Level
The final piece of becoming a strategic listener is mastering what you have learned. That can involve writing out your presentation first, honing in on the story you want to tell, asking for additional input and practicing out loud. Taking the time to speak your words over and over again will help leaders own their presentation. The leader I coached knocked her presentation out of the ballpark!
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