Understanding Success – Part Six

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the sixth post of an eight post series. They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. The goal of this series is not to get you thinking about success, it’s to help you do the things that successful people do and less successful people don’t. The choice of success is completely up to you, always keep that important fact in mind.

While successful people are highly productive they are never to busy to listen. More important they understand the huge difference between hearing and actually listening.

You see, hearing is an involuntary process that starts with noise, vibrations, the movement of fluid in the ears and sound sent to the brain. We hear lots of things that we would just as soon not.

Listening on the other hand is a voluntary act where you try to make sense out of the noise you hear. It doesn’t matter who is doing the talking, if you’re not listening then you’re missing what could be important information that could help you succeed. 

Successful people never fool themselves into thinking they can learn anything while talking. They know that if they are talking then they are not listening and if they are not listening then they are not learning. It’s just that simple!

I think everyone would agree that communication is an essential skill for a leader. What many people fail to realize is that listening is at least 50% of the communication process. Listening is a vital skill for leaders because leaders who don’t listen will find themselves with a room full of followers who have nothing to say and those same poor leaders will mistake the silence for agreement. 

Authentic leaders focus so much on listening that they even hear, and understand, what wasn’t said. That’s outstanding listening!

Effective listening requires making some choices. The most important choice is to decide that you will listen to understand rather than merely listen to respond. Linger on the words of the person you’re speaking with until you understand their meaning. Don’t be afraid of a slight pause in the conversation, allow a moment or two to allow their words to fully register. 

Decide that everyone you talk with has something important to say. While not everything anyone says is important, you never know when brilliance will show itself so listen, really listen, and you just may discover how much other people really know.

One of the kindest gifts you can give to someone is the gift of your listening. Decide to listen as if they were the only person in your world, rid yourself of all distractions, tune out all the noise, look them in the eye and just listen.

Focus on listening rather than just hearing and you will likely be both surprised and delighted by what you will learn.

Old Ears

wpid-Photo-20150419143300778.jpgSome people have old ears.

I know, I know, you're thinking, “well, obviously, some people are old,” so they have old ears. But a person’s age has little to do with how old their ears are. It has to do with how open their mind is.

You see “old” ears has to do with hearing “it all” before. An older person can have very young ears and a younger person can have very old ears.

When a person has old ears they stop listening before the other person has finished speaking. They don’t really need to listen because they have heard it all before.

People with old ears only listen to respond. People with young ears listen and listen more until they understand what is being said. People with old ears are forced to make new decisions with stale information while people with young ears are making great decisions with current information. Young eared people never stop listening and because of that, they never stop learning either.

You can keeps your ears young by simply using them throughout the day. If there is something worth listening to then you should be listening. People who desire younger ears seek out good information and interesting people which makes it easier to listen.

Young ears are a choice and so are older ears. When you choose to listen, really, really listen then you're also choosing younger ears. When you stop listening because you have heard it all before you are giving yourself old ears and you are missing so much of life because of it.

Choose young ears and choose a vibrant life full of learning and growth. You will be surprised how fresh you can stay by filling your brain with a bit of new information each day.

It’s seems counterintuitive but again, the best way to keep your ears young is to use them. Use them to listen to a variety of opinions and people. Use them to listen to “tones” you may not like and use them hear people outside your “normal” group of influencers.

Hearing comes naturally but listening is a skill. It’s a skill we can choose to develop if we really want to learn and keep in mind, the most successful people learn something new every single day.

Are you listening?



Did Anybody Really Hear You?

I have certain expectations of individuals who have the audacity to describe themselves as leaders. One of the key expectations is that they be very effective communicators. 

Effective communicators know that what they say matters little when compared to what was heard. They also know that what was heard matters even less when compared to what was understood.

The words you speak may be as elegant as Socrates’ and the words you write my flow like Mark Twain’s but none of it matters if your intended audience doesn’t understand what you’re saying.

As I travel around speaking about leadership virtually nothing causes more discussion than when I say that leaders are 100% responsible for how their “message” is received. 

There will likely always be someone who just can’t accept or understand your message. But if you’re not willing to accept 100% responsibility for how and if your message is received then you’re going to have a whole lot of “someones” in your organization.

Here are what I believe to be just a few of the “keys” to effective communication.

Great communicators understand that words only create 7% of the impact they make when communicating, whether it be one on one or in front of a large audience. Voice tone – varying the volume, pace and pitch of their voice, punctuating the important words and pausing actually contribute 38%. And, body language, making decisive gestures, great eye contact and your energy make up a whopping 55% of how you impact and influence others.

Great communicators never talk “to” people, they talk “with” them. It makes no difference if you’re having a quiet coffee with an individual or speaking in front of thousands, you’ll never connect with someone by talking to them. If you’re going to talk with someone you had best keep in mind one of Dale Carnegie’s principles from “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s the principle that says: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. People tend to care a lot more about what you think when they first know that you care about what they think.

Great communicators have passion. They care about what they are saying and it shows. This is particularly important when speaking to groups. It is vital when attempting to motivate others. There is perhaps nothing more important in determining how your message will be received then whether or not it was presented with passion. 

Authentic leaders invest the time to make certain their words will be heard as intended. They accept responsibility for the acceptance of their message. They know that once something is said it’s stays said so they are thoughtful in their choice of words.

Authentic leaders also write exactly as they speak. They don’t count their words, they weigh them. They never write ten words when their point can be made with nine. They don’t use big words to impress, they use the right words to inform and influence. 

Here’s a question for all leaders to ponder: If nobody heard what you said was there really any point to saying it? Great communicators prepare to communicate well. 

Do You?

Hearing Isn’t Listening

Just because you’ve been blessed with the sense of hearing does not mean you’ve been blessed with the skill of listening. 

Hearing is in fact one of the five senses. It is merely the act of perceiving sound and receiving sound waves or vibrations through your ear. Unless you’re hearing impaired you likely take that ability for granted. You also seldom stop to think about the difference between hearing someone speak and actually listening to what was said. 

The failure to understand that difference is often a fatal mistake for new and emerging leaders.

Listening is the act of hearing a sound and actually understanding what you hear. It usually requires more than just the sense of hearing. Great communicators are great listeners, they use the sense of hearing, seeing, and sense of touch. 

Great communicators know that listening is a skill that requires you to stop talking long enough to let the sound you hear go through your brain so it can process the meaning of it. 

The best communicators are active listeners. Active listening means also observing what you hear, like the speaker’s body language and emotions, in order to better understand what the speaker is truly saying. 

When we fail to listen we lose the ability to understand and interpret what was said. When we fail to listen we create a communication “gap” and we often fill that gap with our personal bias, judgements and experiences. That’s where the “you said this, no I didn’t” arguments usually come from. 

Hearing will never build a relationship with anyone. If you want to build relationships with anyone you’ll need to listen to them. When people know you’re interested enough to truly listen to them then they will know enough to know that you also truly care.

And oh by the way, don’t kid yourself; if you’re talking you’re most certainly NOT listening.