The lost art of listening

Listening is one of the key areas of leadership I discussed in last week’s blog about 3 Simple Ways to Elevate Your Leadership. I had some interesting reactions to this so wanted to dive a bit further into the notion of truly LISTENING and it’s ability to make your leadership soar.

I’m sure there has been a time in your life when you’ve had a conversation with someone and knew for sure that he or she wasn’t really listening, right?  And it’s pretty easy to tell when it’s happening too….usually through lack of eye contact, facial expressions, or the loathed phrase “What did you just say?”  Unfortunately, unless you’re an angel, chances are that the shoe has also been on the other foot and you have been guilty of the same behaviour (guilty as charged – particularly with children who take forever to get to the point!!!)  People know when we’re distracted and not actually ‘present’.

So I’d like to discuss the lost art of listening.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an effective leader who is not an effective communicator.  Communication is vital in accomplishing tasks, passing on important details, acquiring information, developing a shared vision, reaching decisions through consensus, building relationships, and moving people to embrace change. However, for many people communication is viewed through a lens that focuses on why and how information is delivered. In truth, the most effective communicators are those people who listen intently.

By improving our listening skills, we become better communicators while simultaneously building better relationships with peers, prospects and partners.

Here are some great tips on how to become a better listener:

Develop the desire to listen. You must accept the fact that listening to others is your strongest weapon. Given the opportunity, the other person will tell you everything you need to know. If this doesn’t create desire, I don’t know what will.

  1. Always let the other person do most of the talking. This is a simple matter of mathematics. I suggest a 70/30 rule. You listen 70% of the time and you talk 30% of the time.
  2. Don’t interrupt.  There is always the temptation to interrupt so you can tell the other person something you think is vitally important. It isn’t, so don’t. When you are about to speak, ask yourself if it is really necessary.
  3. Learn active listening.  It’s not enough that you’re listening to someone – you want to be sure that they know you’re listening. Active listening is the art of communicating to the other person that you’re hearing their every word (think facial expressions and body language).
  4. Ask for clarification if needed.  This will clear up any misunderstanding you have.
  5. Get used to ‘listening’ for nonverbal messages – body language.  The other person may be communicating with you via body language. You need to decode the message.
  6. Ask a question…then shut up.  This is a foolproof way to listen. Think of yourself as an interviewer – Leigh Sales, Jana Wendt, Oprah Winfrey, Waleed Aly. They listen and question – so should you.

The key is to really work hard to let other people know that you are actually listening.  The use of eye contact and facial expressions followed up by either additional questions or a synopsis of what was heard conveys to others that you are truly present. If the conversation is happening over the phone or through a digital medium, consider following up with a short summary as to what you heard.

This final tip is probably the most important.  The best way to illustrate that you have really listened is to TAKE ACTION in some way so that the other person knows that they were actually heard.

The action could be moving an idea forward or explaining your decision to go in another direction.  There are always times when people just want to vent and be listened to. In these cases, the most important thing you can do is show you care.

In the digital age, we are all trying so hard to be heard, but are we making the time to listen and reflect?  Social media has ushered in a new era of communication and collaboration.  Traditional hurdles such as time, distance, and money have been overcome as more and more tools are available that allow people to share resources, ideas, opinions, and feedback.  For those of us who routinely leverage social media for these purposes, we are all parts of a vibrant, connected, global community committed to improving professional practice as well as our own lives.  Being able to share information and ideas like never before is exhilarating. BUT, are we taking the time to really listen to what others are sharing?

The art of listening can and MUST be extended to the social media space.

It is not a one-way street. Consider upping your engagement on others’s blogs and updates, and truly engaging in conversations. Reaching out like this can mean the world to someone, and may open an unexpected door for you too.  It shows that you care and are actually listening in the digital space. If someone engages you in this space, with a question or comment, take the time to reply back.

As Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Make improved listening a habit to move more ideas forward and build positive relationships in the process.

Are you honestly listening?

3 simple ways to elevate your leadership – without an MBA!

I asked a question in my Facebook group, The Content Couch, a few weeks back about leadership.  I wanted to know who they considered a leader in their field and, most importantly, why.

The overwhelming reasons for ‘why’ people were considered leaders were these:

– credibility
– visibility
– likability
– great content
– organised

The thing is that it’s easier to appear to be a leader in the digital age than ever before.
Just talk more, talk louder, be more places, offer more things.
Be funny, be everywhere, be everything.

Right?

Wrong.

The problem with many so-called leaders in entrepreneurial land is that there is a lot of smoke and mirrors. You may talk the talk, but can you actually waltz and jive and floss the walk too?

In my opinion, great leaders aren’t necessarily born leaders. They also aren’t created overnight. And they most certainly aren’t created by having the biggest social media following or most expensive program.  Leaders rise up as circumstances appear, but it takes work and a willingness to grow to become a GREAT leader.

And, of course, growth doesn’t happen overnight either.  However you dno’t need more training or an MBA to improve your leadership.

Take 3 simple steps, TODAY,  to elevate your leadership quickly:

1. Serve

Serve your team both internally and externally. Meet their needs personally, but also lead by example in serving those beyond your business, into the wider community. The younger workforce are increasingly interested in how a business can give back and make a difference; a social conscience is a huge selling point as an employer.

2. Listen

Great leaders listen more than they speak. Never ask questions if you’re not prepared to hear the answers. Listening is a powerful way to engage people and it makes you more intelligent about your team, your customers, your processes, your community. Two ears, one mouth.

3. Seek discomfort

This may sound odd at first, but getting uncomfortable is the only way to grow. Push your boundaries and be alert to areas you can improve. Be delighted by discomfort so that you can be purposeful when it arrives and then quickly move through change phases. If you don’t embrace change, you limit your life to that which is already known.

By listening to your team and your followers you will naturally serve them better, increase your likeability and also do wonders for your credibility. By embracing change you will become more visible, by necessity you’ll be more organised, and you’ll also generate awesome fodder for stories to share!

These 3 things don’t take a university degree to figure out, they don’t require money to do and they aren’t time-consuming.
Make a shift in your perception of leadership, and create some simple habits, and you’ll be perceived as a genuinely great leader before you know it.

Happy storysharing.
JJ x

ps. We are going to be working through this leadership framework in much more detail on retreat in Bali. Will you join me? Don’t forget the Super Early Bird price of $2497 (single room) and $2197 (twin share) is on until December 31. What better Christmas present could you gift yourself? Comment below if you’re keen to find out more.

Voting Day…and beyond.

As the paper plate came home from school for the 412th time this year, requesting my baking prowess, I was forced to consider how we all turn up on voting day….and beyond.

The fundraising committee at school certainly takes advantage of an election, by offering a cake stall and sausage sizzle.  Because, lord knows, writing ‘1, 2 & 3’ is hunger-inducing work…

The postal voters, who surreptitiously lock in their vote, out of earshot and sight, who shy away from the queues, the candidates and most likely, the neighbours….

And the candidates and their reps, who each thrust a marketing leaflet at the voters as they dash into the polls, in a last-ditch attempt to get a vote. With the only thing differentiating one from the other being the colour of their shirt or the arrangement of the words ‘people’ and ‘power’ on their brochures.

It is true that some people don’t decide who to vote for until the last minute, and last minute votes can count. However, few voters arrive on the day, accept all the marketing leaflets, read them cover to cover, weigh up the pros and cons and then make a considered decision before casting their vote.  This last desperate attempt to secure a vote shows no evidence of a persistent effort to build a sustainable advantage and a loyal following over time.

Whether we are in politics or business, the real work we do is to show up for the right people CONSISTENTLY, so they know what we stand for every day — not just on voting day or launch day.

Your goal isn’t to be chosen at random because of the colour of your shirt or a single snappy slogan. It’s to be deliberately sought out again and again for your service, your values and the way you empower and impact the people you serve.

How do you turn up on ‘voting day’ – and beyond?

Shiny Object Syndrome

Shiny object syndrome: a fancy phrase to describe the excitement I feel on a daily basis as I come across things, programs, places, ideas,  I’d like to own, take part in, visit, pursue.

Yep. Like many other entrepreneurs, I suffer from the shiny object syndrome.

When you run your own business, one of the awesome things about it is that you achieve the freedom you desperately desire to work on whatever you want, wherever you want and whenever you want. There’s noone telling you what you do, where to do it, or when to deliver it. Now, that all sounds great on paper, but it also means that you – and only you – are responsible for making clear decisions on the what, where and when.

And for holding yourself accountable. *eek*

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Breakdown then breakthrough: allowing change to occur

I haven’t written for a while because I’ve been holidaying and business-retreating, (making up verbs now!) and allowing change to wash over me.

It’s been amazing and wonderful and vulnerable and scary and life-and-business-changing all at once. Yet the funny thing is I wasn’t seeking change, I wasn’t running away to ‘find myself’, or do my own version of Eat, Pray Love, or ‘make a change’, … but it found me anyway. The truth is, I obviously was seeking something.

I wasn’t unhappy, in love, life, parenting or business.
I wasn’t annoyed.
I wasn’t anxious.
I wasn’t scared.
I wasn’t even really frustrated.

But….

Something hadn’t felt right for a little while.
Something had shifted.
Something was niggling.

Something was hovering. Just out there in my peripheral vision.

And it turns out I needed to shift again. To evolve. To focus.

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Settle? I don’t think so

I have a really strong view that I could never expect you to invest in coaching if I don’t do it myself.

Why should I?

It’s a bit like working with a fitness trainer who is obviously overweight and unwell.  It just doesn’t ring true for me.

So I tell you this, not to justify myself or so you can pat me on the back, but simply to let you inside my world for a moment…to reinforce that I practise what I preach.

You see, noone is above help. Noone is perfect. Noone has it all together. And noone has all the answers.

And I felt that keenly recently, when I was reviewing my presentation for the first round of the 8 Weeks to Content Confidence program.

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Your truth vs the marketer’s truth

I read somewhere once that you should get new trainers (you know, sneakers/joggers/sandshoes/runners) every 3 months if you exercise regularly. Apparently if you don’t your shoe will no longer provide you with the support and shock absorption you signed up for.  You’ll be ‘at risk’ of all sorts of things.  I’m wondering whether that was purely marketing hype put out by a sports shoe company, but regardless, it stuck with me.

Every 3 months I should be shelling out around $150 for a new pair of trainers.

Really?

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Improve your health: write some words

Writing therapy is an actual ‘thing’. It’s not just for us nerdy wordy souls yearning for an outlet for our unsatiated brilliance. It’s actually a form of expressive therapy that uses the act of writing, and then the processing of that writing, as a way to heal.  The premise behind writing therapy is that by writing one’s feelings down, emotional trauma will gradually ease.

Interesting.

Whilst I’ve never formally undertaken ‘writing therapy’ as such, I certainly know that I get great satisfaction from scribbling down thoughts when I’m in a muddle about something. It helps to clear my head and offer the best answer when I see all the ideas in black and white in front of me.  I also remember as a teenager how wonderfully satisfying it was to express my inner most desires and angst in my secret diary, and how I always felt a little closer to the ‘truth’ or ‘real me’ as a result. So I guess that was my own form of writing therapy; nurturing my emotional health through words.

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Thanks for nothing winter solstice…or maybe one thing…

Are you feeling like there’s a LOT going on at the moment?
You wouldn’t be alone.

Apparently with the winter solstice comes lots of change. (I have no technical term for this, but it’s a ‘thing’…and not just for woo-woos!)

Believe it or not, the winter solstice may affect a lot of things in your life, including your mood, your sleep schedule, and maybe even your sex drive. But there is one upside…Here’s the lowdown:

1. You might just feel a bit ‘blah’.

Everyone’s heard of the winter blues, but there’s a real science behind why this time of year has you feeling bummed out a lot of the time.  Your brain’s serotonin level (the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that your body produces) are largely affected by the amount of exposure you get to daylight. So when the days start getting significantly shorter, and there’s a limited amount of sunshine, your serotonin levels can drop, causing you to feel a little moody and melancholy. Adding self care practises to your routine — such as deep breathing, meditation, leisurely walks, and yoga — can help boost your serotonin levels, and as a result, your mood and overall well-being.

2. Your sleeping patterns might go cuckoo.

When you’re not getting enough vitamin D — as a result of not being exposed to enough sunlight — your body can feel super exhausted and lethargic. The change in seasons that brings us into the winter solstice can affect your body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates your normal sleep cycles, as well as your ability to produce melatonin, aka your body’s sleep hormone. To put it simply, the lack of sunlight could definitely take a toll on your snooze time. But the dark circles under your eyes don’t need to be your default winter aesthetic. Take a vitamin D supplement or invest in an electric light box to remind your body that there is, indeed, a light at the end of this dark tunnel we call the winter solstice. Or you could just go to Queensland for a few months.

3. Your head may go bang.

Though the research isn’t definitive, there are reports that cases of migraine are on the increase during the winter months. The swift change in temperature can lead to changes in the body that result in tension headaches (you know the ones where it feels like there’s a rubber band around your head?). Try some essential oils, a warm bath, or a big block of chocolate…I hear that helps anything!

4. Apparently your sex drive could take a toll, as well.

Who knew?  Apparently testosterone plummets during winter. Maybe try getting cosy in front of a fire or finding a way to make ugg boots and a dressing gown sexy!

5. Finally, a light at the end of the wintry tunnel.

The winter solstice isn’t bad, guys! It might have you suddenly feeling like Vincent van Gogh (minus the whole cutting off your ear thing, hopefully), and you may just be inspired to tap into your creative side. While this isn’t a concrete finding, an increase in creativity during winter months is basically all about perception. When the chilly temperatures of winter force us to go inside and bundle up with a warm mug of tea and cosy blankets, we’re more likely to connect with others and as a result, inspired to create and to brainstorm new ideas. So…embrace that. It’s a GREAT time to get working on that book you’ve always been meaning to write, that blog you’ve been meaning to start, or that new social media channel you’ve been meaning to tackle.

Have you felt the effects? Positive or negative?