A Listening Leader is Golden, Others are a Dime a Dozen
Leaders that don’t listen are a dime a dozen, as the saying goes. Almost everyone has had a boss that does all the talking. I am tired of them, aren’t you? Consequently, most of them are bad bosses.
Why don’t they listen? Some don’t care; their internal values aren’t attuned to other people’s situation or needs. Others let their ego get in the way which prevents them from paying attention to other people’s ideas. The truth is that many don’t know how to listen. They haven’t been taught or learned the skills of listening. Finally, we are in a world that values talking, speech-making and presentations. Shock and awe win the day. Our rat race of a world prefers snapchat–the fastest way to share a moment and then forget it.
When I Finally Began to Learn How to use My Listening Skills
My wife and I were having a disagreement over an issue one day at the kitchen table. Since I train managers in leadership, including how to listen, I emulated good listening behavior with her. I nodded my head, made eye contact, and asked a few clarifying questions. Then I did it–I said this with a big grin, “If I understand you correctly, you are saying...”
She responded quickly by leaning forward on the table, locking her eyes with mine and said, “Rick, don’t give me any of the workshop B.S.!” (She was a little more colorful in her word choice than I just wrote.) I learned I am not the best listener. I bought into the 24/7 business mentality. My listening was robotic, and I lacked honest empathy. I really didn’t care about her point of few at that time and it burst through like a sunrise in a dark room.
Listening is a Lost Art
Using listening skills, and empathy are a lost art because it takes time. Certainly, you have to slow down and this flies in the face of our “fast food” world mentality. Investing the time to create deep, multi-layered relationships are almost a thing of the past. Listening isn’t about you; it’s about the other person. I mean, how often have you listened to a speech or watched a video conference by a CEO explaining their great vision and plan? Now, how often have you seen one in your office or with the team asking for input, listening, clarifying concerns and taking notes?
I believe the following happens way to often in organizations today.
- Managers get some random leadership training, and listening may be a part of it.
- Yet, managers have 100 different priorities. Everyone is scrambling to get things done.
- Their team is down five people.
- They attend meeting after meeting.
- When objectives aren’t reached or changes not implemented, there isn’t any listening. “Leaders” tell them need to be accountable for results and get their act together. Get on the bus, or they will be off the bus.
- Few organizations allow time for listening. They want action.
Also, this is what happens with the yearly or every other year employee engagement surveys. (Even the “real-time ones). Employees fill it out. HR or other managers look at it and then create action plans within a certain time period so the executives can review the input and check it off the list. However, it all happens over a few weeks or months, then poof, it’s all done and forgotten pretty much until next year or so.
Pulling It All Together
We really put our listening skills to work when we value the person or people above all else. This is a Servant Leadership approach. So we take the time, make eye contact, ask questions, empathize and paraphrase. And we do it sincerely and honestly. When we do, we communicate their value, and trust begins to happen. Now, only doing this one time is the test.
The magic is learning a consistent pattern of behavior while relating to others, regardless of the whirlwind around us. When we do this our credibility is enhanced, and as a leader we gain positive influence, truthful input from others and a higher performing loyal team. With our families we demonstrate a deep love unknown by many. Writer Roy T. Bennett suggests, “Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.”
In addition, do you want to improve your influencing skills? See this eBook: How to Motivate-NO-Inspire People: 10 Keys to Employee Engagement.