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?

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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.

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