The Leader Who Heard
Wouldn’t you love for someone to listen to you?
Why not be that person for others?
5 reasons leaders have closed ears:
- No aspiration to listen. Have you ever heard a leader exclaim, “My aspiration is to be a great listener.”
- Bias toward action. You might try listening AND doing at the same time.
- Time pressure. Perceived lack of time dehumanizes interactions.
- Fearful heart. Caring for people and getting results seem to collide. The combination of #3 and #4 is deadly to listening.
- Lack of skill and discipline. The challenge of listening is first skill, then the discipline to actually do it.
3 ways to listen like a leader:
#1. Listen to learn.
Set aside what you know in order to grasp what others know.
#2. Listen to care.
- What gestures, posture, and office arrangement communicate caring?
- How might you express dedication to serve the best interest of others?
Listening to care often requires talking.
#3. Listen to do.
Talking hasn’t worked when negative patterns persist.
Listening in time:
#1. Listen to the past.
Unexamined experience guarantees the past will return unchanged.
- What have you learned? Dig deeper than first response.
- What should you stop? Think about habits and behaviors that didn’t work as hoped.
- What should you keep doing?
- How did you create effective processes and build strong relationships?
Never let the past justify an unsatisfying present.
#2. Listen to the present.
- What’s happening?
- Where are the energy hotspots? Drains?
- Who shines?
- Who sits on the fringes?
- What are your highest points of confidence? Fear?
#3. Listen to the future.
- Imagine a joyful future. Who do you need to become to get there?
- If you succeed what will be different?
- What do you really want? Focus on habits, patterns, and relationships.
Listening is a gift.
What gets in the way of good listening?
How might you listen like a leader today?
A major thing that gets in the way of listening is not wanting to hear the answer. Managers do not want the truth that things are difficult or not working, they want the right answer, that everything is on time, on cost, on quality and everybody loves them.
Thanks Mitch. It seems that listening requires courage and openness.
Recently our team created core values for the organization. Included was the statement we “listen bravely”. We should expect uncomfortable feedback in order to crave it and get it. Without that passion and desire we will continue to receive what we always received before….
Along these same lines, one trick I’ve learned is to listen with a bias towards having my mind changed. It’s certainly not always easy but it does help invite conversations where the answers and discussion aren’t always comfortable.
Dan, I would offer that a sixth reason leaders do not listen is due to arrogance. They believe they already know the answers. Even when a leader does know the answer, they miss an opportunity to gain perspective and different view points. Really enjoy your blog each day. Keep it up.
Thanks Darrell. Yes, it’s very difficult to listen when you already know the answer.
It seems that openness is an expression of humility.
There are too many distractions in todays world, becoming complex.
Start by turning all cell phones off during meetings! ( Unless the personal have life saving practices), Eliminate distractions as best you can.
Listen with the intent you will learn something.
Pay attention! They hear every 3rd word and miss the message,how many times have you heard “I didn’t hear that”? When they are standing right in front of you.
Great suggestions, Tim. Research shows that the presence of a cell phone contributes to shallow conversations. 🙂
Distractions – like cell phones — play havoc at work and in personal relationships with family and friends. If we don’t put limits on them it is impossible for us to focus on who is in front of us and what they are saying. Being REALLY listened to is a gift we can give to others.
Distractions! Mostly from electronic devices. You need to disconnect so that you can connect.
Nicely said, Lynne. Disconnect so you can connect.
I think our established ideas of what our team members can contribute – or our propensity to typecast – can interfere with good listening. Everything that is said has value of some sort, even if it not correct or even if it is said non-helpfully. Good listening finds the value.
Thanks Kathy. Yes! Perhaps one way to deal with tendencies to typecast is to listen for disconfirming statements and ideas.
Three thoughts 1) Covey’s “Seek first to Understand, Then be Understood”; 2) As a leader, wait until the junior most people in a conversation have responded to anyone’s question – that way your (leader) opinion won’t suppress their alternative ideas; 3) Call on people who don’t speak up naturally – who’s the wallflower that needs to have a thought pulled out of them.
What gets in the way of good listening? Formulating a response. We are our own worst distraction!
Today I received my first official email! I loved it. I have been working on Listening to Listen all year as one of my goals. As a specialist – I often feel I know best practices, BUT it is important to listen to doubts, struggles, ideas, etc. from my colleagues. I believe as an educator, we often don’t take the time to listen to colleagues because many of us are set in our ways, and flexibility is an area we teach our students, but need to partake in!
Hi Dan ,
I see not listening as the root of many of our problems.Many ,myself included ,hear but don’t listen .John Maxwell says it well, listening is not a skill it is a discipline to be practiced..We all need to learn and then practice listening .It is interesting as an educator to note that listening skills are rarely taught at any level.I make listening a staple of our beginning leadership classes I teach at the Ed.D.level..I find an easy way to start is to write on the board LISTEN=SILENT.
Nice post about an important subject. One of the biggest leadership lessons I learned was from someone who took the time to provide me with some counsel about interviewing for a position. Conversation took place extemporaneously after a scheduled meeting, and this person spent the next 90 minutes making me feel like I was the most person thing in the world to him. Talk about “listening to care.” I used that example in leadership classes I have taken. And 30 years later I sought him out and tole him what the experience meant to me.
And hey Dan, if you have an extra copy of “Talent Magnet” I would love it 🙂
If I see the listener is in deep thought while I am still talking I know they are not listening but most likely formatting a response to the first part of what I said. I have even found myself doing that. It is disrespectful to not pay attention the entire time. If all you hear is the first part and spend the rest of time formatting your response you miss most of the information. This can result in saying something that was already dealt with while not paying attention. I find using the persons name “so John what I am saying is”. It brings the person back. In larger groups it may be the person is worried they may not get to add their input if they are not ready to talk as soon as the speaker is done. This can be addressed by maintain some basic rule of being respectful to each other in the meeting.
Avoidance could be another reason. When a leader feels helpless and unable to change a situation.
I thing I learned is either you listen with an open mind or you listen to be reactive/defensive which in the end would break or make your understanding of the situation .. a very good read.. 🙂
Good perspective. It seems like very confident leaders have a tension with considering other points of view. It’s good to be confident….also good to consider potential blind spots. How do you balance it?
I think confidence will give you the ability to become comfortable with your blind spots. If a leader is insecure, they’ll struggle because they want to look like they know everything.
Confidence means just because you don’t know something / may have got it wrong, it doesn’t make you a worse person or leader. Once you know that, you don’t fear feedback as much.
I believe it was Larry King who said, “I never learned anything while I was talking.”
To listen is to focus on someone else’s responses completely and as was said earlier to do that with humility, recognizing the value of stepping back from our “know it all” position into one of focused receiver. The Magic of Listening is that as we accept the challenge to listen wholeheartedly and embrace the unique perspectives that each individual brings to the table we learn, Leaders who listen are leaders who enable growth..