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#43 - Are you listening?

I once worked in a team that could’ve been the happiest team on the planet, except for one itty bitty detail: our well intentioned, inexperienced, easily distracted younger boss just didn’t listen.

He would listen for a few seconds and then precipitously launch into:
  • “Well, the same thing happened to me last month…..”  His experience in a similar situation.
  •  “Ooh, Ooh Ooh, but you know what we could do!”…..Another idea popped into his head.
  • “But did you know that, in fact….” His knowledge on the subject.
  • “But did you also know that…..”  What else he knew about said subject.
I assure you he meant no harm. He just confused talking with listening, monologue with dialogue. Because he always had a lot to say, he unfortunately monopolized the conversation, rarely stopping long enough to hear what others could contribute.

Over time, we spoke less and less at any meetings he was involved in. What was the point? Eventually, participants just stopped coming. Team morale was plummeting.

I wasn’t a coach back then, and I didn’t have the tools to broach the subject with my team lead. I eventually left the team, but never forgot the lesson about what listening is, and what listening isn’t.

I admit there are times in my life when I don’t listen well because I think I already have the solution or my mind is elsewhere.  At this point in my journey, I hopefully catch myself more often than not, stop, take a breath, and listen. Only with listening can I grow.

Only with listening, can I create the space for someone to do their best thinking. As a leader, only with listening, can I foster trust and strengthen connection. Only with listening, can I know what is really going on. Only with listening, can I support others in building their self-confidence and becoming stronger contributors.

I am not listening to you if:
  • I always refer back to my experience
  • I say “But, But, But” every time you offer an idea
  • I fidget while I wait for my turn to speak
  • I’m lost in my own train of thought
  • I think I know the answer to your problems
I’m truly listening to you when:
  • I turn down the volume of my own thoughts to focus intently on you
  • I give you the benefit of the doubt
  • I have an open heart and show compassion
  • I play back what you’ve said, respectfully
  • I enter your model of the world for a while
  • I am curious and ask genuine questions about you
When I listen I can lead, because you’ll follow me willingly to where YOU want to go. You’ll have space to come up with your own solutions, and that space will be respected and validated. We’ll establish a genuine exchange of ideas. Our working relationship will be one of trust and open lines of communication.

As a leader, listening is indeed your most valuable tool.