Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Developing Our Listening skills

How important is listening in Leadership?  How important is the beat in music?  How important is light to seeing what you are doing?  It is indispensable!!

Some years ago, someone told me “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care”.  Just the other day I heard someone on the radio repeat what their mother said to them... ‘you have 2 ears and 1 mouth; plan accordingly’.  I don’t know who first said either of those, and I’ve found this to be so true...  No one who works for you wants to hear what you have to say until they feel heard.

Listening is not, I’ll repeat, NOT simply sitting there while allowing the other person to finish speaking before you start speaking!  There is a purpose to listening.  Think back to the first days and months of a new relationship... remember how carefully you listened to that person?  Odds are you listened not only to understand the words they were saying, but also to understand how they felt about what they were saying.  You really wanted to know where they were coming from.

That same interest... that same energy needs to go into listening to the people who work for you!  As you listen you will most likely find your mind wandering to various things.  You will think about how to respond to what they are saying.  You may think about your commute to work that day; something going on at home; how your boss doesn’t listen to you; how your knees have been bothering you lately (you get the idea... your mind will do what your mind does!)  That’s normal.  The important thing is to bring your attention back to the person in front of you.  

No response you might give to anything they say will be as important as having them walk away knowing that their words and feelings were important to you...  That you really cared about what they had to say, and that you took the time to really understand them.

Give them  your full attention.  Redirect your attention when you mind wanders.  Let them know they have your full attention by putting down your phone, facing away from your computer screen, taking off your headset, facing them, and sitting upright.  We draw so many conclusions about people by watching how they address us with their bodies and their posture.... give them a clear signal they deserve and have your full attention!

If this is new to you, or if you are new to the team, you may have to take another step or two.  The people you are leading will not just assume that you care or understand them, even if you do everything I’ve mentioned above perfectly.  Restating what they said back to them can be an invaluable tool in getting people to know that you were listening.  “So what I heard you say was...” or repeating back the feelings that you heard them relaying like “that sounds really frustrating” or “I find myself getting angry when that happens to me” or “I have to say that I”m guilty of acting that way myself”... there are any number of ways to find out if you actually heard what they were trying to say.  

If you repeat it back incorrectly ask them to restate it, and really concentrate on getting it.  If they agree and go on, continue listening to better understand.

Actually listening to the people who work for you will pay off in so many ways.  They will feel better about working for you... someone who cares to understand them.  They will be much more likely to listen to you when you ask them to do something.  You might hear about them defending you to someone who says you don’t care or listen.

It’s relationship building, and you want to have as many tools in your toolbox as you can.  Listening is one of the tools that will get the most use, and will pay for itself many times over!

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