The Five Purposes of Listening
The most neglected work of leadership is listening. The reason? It’s hard work.
If leadership is about others, listening is about leadership.
4 reasons you hate to listen:
- A squirrel’s attention span. Busy leaders look like squirrels caught in traffic.
- Dripping faucets. Nagging issues drip in the back of your mind. But if you listened more, maybe there would be fewer nagging issues.
- A Grinch heart. It’s hard to listen when your heart is three sizes too small. Listening is caring.
- Dragster ears. Ears are about 4X faster than tongues. You can’t wait for the other person to finally get to the point.
Think of listening as an Olympic event. The only way to get the Gold is to go all-in today.
The 5 Purposes of listening:
#1. Mattering. Listen to let others know they matter.
People who feel they matter courageously work to make a difference. Those who feel they don’t matter go through the motions.
- What’s important?
- What are their hopes or fears?
- What do they really want?
You infuse value into others when you attend to their words.
#2. Humility. Listen to humble yourself.
Arrogance talks. Humility listens.
No one can humble you. You must humble yourself. One way to practice humility is to let another speak their mind.
Listening elevates others.
#3. Clarity. Listen to help others find clarity.
Provide opportunity for people to hear their own voice. Those who hear their own voice learn what they really think.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Stephen R. Covey
#4. Effectiveness. Listen to act effectively.
It’s a waste of energy to solve the wrong problem.
Listen in order to do the right stuff.
#5. Curiosity. Listen to ask a question.
What is the purpose of listening?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your listening? What might help you become a better listener?
So true, I remember in school the teachers saying “listen to what I’m saying” and “pay attention”!
pretty simple statement yet time and time again you would hear someone say “I didn’t hear that”.
Once we get past listening “we need to understand the statement”, what they want us to vision?
So “pay attention”, “listen attentively” and execute so you get them most out of your time!
Thanks Tim. “Pay Attention” … now there’s an excellent thought for all leaders. Keep your head up and your ears open.
Yes, don’t listen with your mouth open!
Listen to learn as it is hard to learn when I’m talking. Listening is the most under utilized skill of most managers and leaders. Listening to provide clarity is a great thought. Many times while in the process of thinking out loud, a listening ear gives the speaker an opportunity to solve their own issue or concern.
Thanks McSteve. Thanks for using the term skill in relation to listening. That means it can be learned.
There is a give and take on talking and learning. Generally speaking, listeners have the opportunity to learn. But the other side is those who talk also learn. Some of us learn while we talk. (Perhaps not the best, but true.)
Dan, how you continue to hit the mark is amazing. I go through these challenges every day. I’ve already formulated my answer before the person is even done talking. Amazing. Going to try to slow it down and put your points into practice today
Thanks Andrew. YES! A person with an answer has trouble listening. Maybe that’s why it’s a good plan to listen to ask a question. 🙂
As I wrote this morning, the idea of being calm kept coming to mind. Listening takes calmness. Emotional agitation indicates eagerness to talk, while calmness indicates willingness to listen.
I didn’t include the above for lack of space. Thanks bringing up the idea of slowing down. 🙂
A poster on the wall of a staff member caused me to change my habit, “listening”, to the goal of “hearing”. The poster stated, “I often do not listen to understand; I frequently listen to reply.”
Thanks Russell. Listening to reply is another way of saying that we aren’t really paying attention.
So good, Dan. So good.
The dripping faucets got me. Leading a large team comes with its own set of challenges. Add that on top of a personal life, and you got a jam packed mind.
I must learn how to be wherever I am. And by helping others succeed, some of those faucets may get fixed and thus clearing more margin in my mind.
Thanks Josh. Pow! “Be where you are.” I think I heard or read, Be where your boots are. There is so much going on in the area of mindfulness these days. Seems like a useful focus for those of us who chase rabbits.
Lot of great points!
Gandhi once said that one of the most important things he learned about leeadership from his father, who was a tribal chief–Always be the last to speak. First listen to what others have to say.
I try to have the attitude, –what new things can I learn in this discussion. There is always some new info in every interaction.
Thanks Paul. Just plan to speak last might help lots of us to slow down and pay attention.
I think truly listening is learning to be present and not applying your own stories to what people are saying. Really listening, you can hear their story, your story isn’t important in that moment. Great post Dan, as always!
Thanks Dawn. I’ve been watching my listening and it seems I don’t do it much. The stories that come to mind distract me from listening to the story someone else is telling.
Excellent points as usual, Dan. Long ago, I heard or read somewhere that someone said of a good listener, “He/She is the most charming person I’ve ever met.” It’s far too easy to start planning your reaction/response/argument/discourse while you’re supposedly listening to someone else speak. My best supervisors listened without interrupting. On the lighter side, when someone asks why I’m talking to myself, my response is “I talk to myself because I’m a good listener.” Thank you for yet another post to share with my supervisor (who is a good listener!)
Thanks Williams. YES… don’t we love the people who actually listen to us. 🙂
I thought you were going to say that you talk to yourself because no one else will listen to you!
That has happened, as well!
“Perpetua is not allowed to speak in my meeting.” This is the reaction of a senior manager when I speak the truth during a grievance meeting.
Sorry to hear that Perpetua.
Could you write something about it how I can overcome this? Thank you.
Boy oh! boy. That’s an interesting subject. I’ll mull it over, but honestly, I haven’t a clue.
Should you wish more background info, let me know. Thanks
Great post! Among other things, listening allows us to truly hear what is on the mind and in the heart of the person speaking. It also helps us formulate the next question to ask that will allow the continued extraction of the other person’s thoughts and ideas.
Thanks Nathan. We love to talk about being outward-focused. Listening is a great expression of what we say we admire.
For those with Dragster ears. A good practice in learning to listen is holding water in the mouth while the other person speaks. It impossible to speak while having water in one’s mouth.
Thanks Gerry. It might look funny, but it sounds effective. You made me laugh out loud. 🙂
I’m afraid I would choke!
Wait. What were you saying? 🙂
A perfect concise list!
I find one of the most important is #1 – listening so others know that they matter.
However, I’ve seen many leaders play a good listening game, but then actually ignore everything that is said and continue on as normal! This tells people we don’t value them.
But then, that’s why you have #4 – listening to do the right things…
I think in these 5 points you’ve pretty much got it all covered Dan!
Acredito que ouvir seja a chave para o descobrimento de alternativas e soluções para problemas antes desconhecidos e portanto ignorados. Aprender a ouvir é também um caminho para se aprender a solucionar melhor.
Vim porque tenho interesse em uma das 20 copias do livro disponível, a convite de John Eades pelo Twitter.
This really helps me