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Are You Really Listening?
If, like many of my clients and colleagues, you are always on the lookout for ways to increase your inspirational leadership, this is a good time of year to check yourself out on the key skill that can keep a team inspired by your leadership: your listening skill.
Here are some key questions to ask as you check the current state of your own listening ability.
Are you getting yourself out of the way? Many people think they're tuned in to what others say, but they're really more in tune with what's going on in their own mind.
They aren't really releasing their own inner monologue...
they're reloading it! To be as good a listener as an inspirational leader must be, the first step is to get yourself out of the way.
Consciously focus on placing your attention outside your own mind, and on truly experiencing the other person through what they say.
People can generally tell instantly when you're faking it.
Are you keeping yourself free from distractions? If you're looking out the window while I'm speaking to you, I might still think you're listening.
But if you are reading a computer screen or looking at your pocket electronics, I'm convinced you're not hearing a word I say (even if you are).
Inspirational leaders care enough about others to give them undivided attention.
If you can't do that now, tell me when you can, and offer to reschedule the discussion.
Are you asking questions? Most folks would have a hard time believing you're really listening to them if you have no questions about what they're saying.
Ask open-ended questions (ones that can't be answered "yes" or "no"), and make sure your question follows logically from the points the other person is making.
Are you responding to the answers to your questions? I've coached too many leaders who understand that they have to ask questions, but who give no more than a nod or grunt in response to the answer.
After a while, such responses make the other person feel more "downloaded" than really listened to.
Ask a question...
capture the content of the answer...
and then give a little reaction of some kind.
"I agree" is good, but "What I really agree with is your point about brand messaging - I have a couple of ideas about that, too, if you want to talk about it" is MUCH better.
Not only have you truly listened, you've proven it through your reaction.
Are you summarizing or synthesizing what's been said? If so, even if you only give a quick summary every five minutes or so, you are probably doing an excellent job of listening to the other person.
Don't be afraid you'll get the summary wrong, or that it won't be perfect...
your objective is to connect with the person, not to write a thesis paper on the content of the discussion.
If your summary of what I've said isn't close enough, I'll tell you.
And I'll be happy you gave a summary, and gave me the chance to put the discussion firmly on the right track.
Whether you own your own business, work for someone else, or simply build your wealth through investments, the quality of your inspirational leadership will depend on your ability to connect with others.
And you can't do that without being a great listener.
Check yourself out, and renew your efforts at listening to others with empathy, sensitivity, and patience.
Great listening alone may not inspire great accomplishments on the part of your team; but bad listening will sure help prevent them.
by Michael D.