There’s a wonderful and powerful truth which exists in many facets of life having to do with relationships and leadership. It’s powerful because the impact it creates when utilized is immense, whereas it’s also a wonderful truth because it’s a quality we all possess completely free of charge.
This amazing truth I speak of which impacts all of our relationships, our ability to lead and our professional experience is the all-powerful art of listening. You know, the opposite of talking, as in not speaking and allowing others to talk. I know, this is a foreign concept for many of us.
Why is listening an important habit to develop to be a good leader, friend, spouse, etc? Those who possess the ability to listen earnestly experience deeper relationships, advanced awareness of how they show up and how others are impacted by them (EQ), are genuine in their care for others and are touted as being “leaders people would run through a wall for”. To become an exceptional leader, friend or spouse, you must learn to develop your listening skills.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, that’s not very profound. I listen all the time.”
But, do you really listen, or as you simultaneously thinking about the next question or statement you’re going to say once the other person is done talking?
Let’s see how good of a listener you are. If you’ve done one of the following in the last week you’ll want to continue reading this article:
The list goes on, and on, however these six items seem to be the biggest perpetrators of what we see from people who aren’t fully engaged and listening.
Why don’t listen? Short answer – our egos get in the way of allowing someone else the stage to talk.
The long answer – Perhaps you’re the exception as your listening skills are top notch. For everyone else out there, which I’ll gladly throw myself into this boat, we struggle with listening. We tell ourselves that others are wrong; only we know the truth; “I don’t have time for this”. We also say things like “I can multi-task while we’re talking”; or think things like ‘my point makes more sense’, ‘they’re idiots’, ‘they must not see the big picture’ (love that one), ‘they have to hear my side before we can move on’. While all of these responses are rather normal, each of them grows from the belly of the ego. We’re also an ever growing impatient bunch of people. With so much going on in the world today it’s easy to fall into the trap that we don’t have time to have a conversation, especially if that conversation isn’t of grave importance.
Leaders – read closely here. The success of your job depends on your ability to listen. Forbes writer Glenn Llopis says that when “leaders judge, they expose their immaturity and inability to embrace differences.” Did you know that your act of not listening actually sent such a strong communication to the person on the other end? Imagine how it made them feel!
How can we fix this? Short answer – zip it (our mouths that is) and focus on the person in front of you. Long answer – read ‘Action Item’ below.
WHY should we focus on being better listeners?
Key Take Away
If you haven’t come to the conclusion by now, we may need to get some backup in here asap. Let me get to the point then. Your job and career as a leader depends on it.
People follow and support leaders who live a servants’ mentality which means when their people have an idea, a question, a problem, or a wild haired suggestion, they listen as if listening is going out of style. Being a servant doesn’t mean a leader is weak, it means their people and company come first, before themselves. Conversation is the gateway to a persons’ mind, body and soul. Its best we listen or we’ll run the chance of missing out on some truly incredible moments.
Next time you’re confronted with someone wanting your attention to converse be sure to put away your phone, your work at hand, close your computer screen or turn it off, close your door for that matter. Do whatever you need to in order to give the person on the other side of the table your complete and undivided attention. You’ll be happy you did as a results of the conversation will be far better while leaving the person on the other side of the table feeling like they were heard and cared for.
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About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.