It’s only July, and most everyone I meet is sick, if not distraught, with this campaign season. While I have seen glimpses of positive persuasion and leadership, most of the current news stories illustrate what we should not do as leaders. Personal attacks and political spin invariably make me stop listening. To be a great orator, you have to be a great listener, first. The candidates have me asking myself the question, “Is anybody listening??” As listening is quintessential to all leadership positions, it is worth reflect on your own listening skills. Here are the three steps you can take to be a better a listener.
Stop Talking – This may seem obvious. But if you are speaking more than 25% of the time during a conversation, you’re at best doing a marginal job of listening. I sometimes find myself thinking that sharing my experiences, suggestions, or reactions will be helpful to a person seeking to be listened to, when I know that it’s not. In business, executives, sales people, and service professionals all need healthy egos to be successful and the ability to restrain their egos to be exceptional.
Discern the consequences and possibilities a speaker is focused on – By simply noting whether a speaker is focused on possibilities or consequences, the quality of communication will greatly improve. Discovering sources of excitement or concern will deepen connections and build trust. Attentive listening is required to make these discoveries; as speakers are often not aware of the true root of these emotions. We all have habits of thought and a good listener is required to disrupt those patterns so situations can be seen in a new light.
Make it personal– During the course of a good conversation, you will discover hopes, goals, and fears. There is a temptation to take these conversational gems at their face value; when asking one more question might change the course of the conversation. The question is, “What does realizing (or failing to realize) this goal mean to you personally?” Even though most of us appreciate being asked such a question, our social conditioning can make us reluctant to ask a personal question. Ask yourself, “What does completing my goals mean to me personally?” If this question doesn’t give you pause, think about setting a goal you are really excited about.
Effective leaders know that meaningful conversations with collaborators are a source of creativity, innovation, and unity. Engage in a conversation today and try it out!