The best leader I ever worked with was an exceptional listener. When he was in conversation with someone, he gave them his full, undivided attention. It was as if whoever he was speaking with was the only person in the room. It was a phenomenal thing to witness, let alone be a recipient of.
By doing this, not only did he empower his team to perform at their best, but the ripple effect of his listening abilities spread throughout the entire organisation.
When I broached the topic of his skill with him, he confided that early on in his life, he was the recipient of ‘deep listening’ from a teacher. It had such a profound impact on him, he vowed to cultivate this powerful (and unfortunately, rare) skill.
The more I learn about leadership, the more I have come to believe – with all my head, heart and soul – the most powerful tool for a leader to develop is the ability to listen.
I’m not talkin’ about “I’m only waiting for you to finish your bit so I can say my piece” listening. Or, “I have a million deadlines to meet so let’s wind this word-fest up real quick” listening. Or even, “let me stop you right there and tell you what to do so I feel clever” listening.
I mean deep listening – with full presence, attention and intention to understand.
If leaders practiced this type of deep listening with their team members, managers, customers, suppliers and each other, there would be an explosion of unleashed potential in organisations on a scale we have never seen before.
Research has found that listening effectively enables us to get more information from the people we manage. It increases trust, reduces conflict and enables a better understanding of how to motivate others. It inspires a higher level of commitment in the people we manage and the company we represent.
But deep, active listening with full presence, is also a rare jewel in organisations.
We listen to people at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute. Research shows that the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency.
Is this surprising?
When was the last time you had someone give you their full, undivided attention at work? Someone who just listened – without seeking to solve, put their slant on it, give you advice, interrupt, check their phone or start thinking about the next board report…
Here are just four ways to cultivate this exceptional skill:
1. Ditch the distractions and look at the person
Put down your device of choice, make eye contact and give someone your complete attention. What message does it send to your team, let alone the person you’re talking to, if they sense you’re just not that into it?
2. Suspend judgement
You can’t listen to understand if you are already crafting your response, or jumping to judgement mode. Truly empathetic listening cannot occur if you are positional. Seek to understand this person’s frame of reference. Put yourself in their shoes. Perhaps especially if you disagree or have a vastly different perspective. Yes, that’s tough.
3. Become an expert at paraphrasing and reflecting back what you’ve heard
As well as letting the other person know you have given them the courtesy of your attention, it’s an excellent mechanism for avoiding assumptions – and miscommunication.
4. Sift for nuggets in the conversation and probe more around these
Body language and ‘charged’ words or phrases are good clues to delve deeper. Phrases like “tell me more about that” and “what do you mean when you say…” should be part of your regular conversational repertoire.
When we listen in this way, people feel seen and heard.
When people feel seen and heard, they perform at their best.
When people perform at their best, we are doing our job as a leader.
Innovation via Vince Lombardi
5 Important Life Lessons To Make You More Successful
The Top 3 Takeaways From Salesforce’s State of Sales Research Report
Setting Goals is so 2018! What to Do in 2019
Staying Away From Investing FOMO
Power: What You Can Do vs What Lights You Up
10 Ways to Save Your Scarcest Resource
The Top Web Design Trends in 2019
6 Mammoth Barriers to Being Successful
Where We Went Wrong Shorting Stocks in 2018
Equities9 hours ago
Where We Went Wrong Shorting Stocks in 2018
Learn9 hours ago
On The Prowl For Emerging Markets Value
Development9 hours ago
How to Regain Control of Your Professional Destiny
Markets1 day ago
Is the U.S. Economy Affected as the Shutdown Continues?
Development1 day ago
Having That Awkward “Debt” Conversation with Clients
Fixed Income1 day ago
Earnings Season: The Sugar Rush Fades
Investments2 days ago
It’s Early, But EM Bonds Are Rebounding
Research2 days ago
Complacency Defined: The Case of the High-Yield Bond Market