Leaders Listen

Most of us, myself included, tend to take the ability to hear for granted. We also too often confuse the ability to hear with the ability to listen.

Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences.

The best leaders listen. They are always listening. They even listen to things that they would just as soon not hear. 

Leaders make themselves available to hear the “noise” in their organizations because that’s like inside information.

Weak leaders try to silence the noise, better leaders encourage it and find a way to turn even negative noise into useful information. Think about it, would you as a leader rather pretend all is well or would you rather know where your opportunities for improvement might be?

When you listen, really really listen, you will likely hear some things you wish you hadn’t. You may even hear some stuff that isn’t true. You must also realize that part of your role as a leader requires that you have the ability to sort the good information from the not so good. (A bit of an aside here but as a leader you also do have a responsibility to stop untruths from being spread)

Authentic Servant Leaders know that good listening is the beginning of great ideas so they listen at every level of their organization. 

They also listen with more than their ears. They “listen” with their eyes to determine if what they are hearing matches with what they are seeing. They “listen” with their heart as well to determine the level of emotion attached to what was said. 

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that communication is a participative endeavor and that actually communicating requires them to listen more than they talk. 

If you’re a true leader then you certainly know that you still have much to learn. Hopefully then you also know that you’ll learn more in a few minutes of listening then you’ll learn in hours of talking. 

So listen up. Listen to what was said, listen to how it was said, listen to when it was said, and listen to whoever said it. 

You’ll never know where your next learning opportunity will come from unless you’re always listening. Anyone can teach everyone something and that means as a leader you should invest the time to hear from all of your people. 

Did you hear that?

How to be a Better Listener

I could make this the shortest post in the history of blogging by simply writing “be quiet.” 

But I won’t.

I recall a time years ago when a friend of mine was flying from Minneapolis to Tampa. That’s a fairly long flight and almost as soon as he found his seat the person next to him began talking. His seat mate talked the entire flight with my friend just interjecting a word or a nod here and there.

When the flight landed his seat mate complimented him on his terrific conversational skills. They said it was the most enjoyable conversation they had ever had on a flight. 

My friends “secret” to a great conversation was his ears. He listened well. 

If you want to be a good listener then you’re going to have to listen. Really really listen. Linger on the words of the person speaking long enough to truly hear them and not just hear them but understand them. 

Great listeners understand this simple truth: if you’re talking then you’re not listening. When you’re talking you might be able to hear what the other person is saying but you’re not listening in a meaningful way.

You’ll learn more in an hour of listening then you can learn in a month of talking so if you want to learn more then listen more and listen better.

To be a better listener understand the value of saying nothing when you have nothing of value to say. Saying less doesn’t make you a poor communicator, in fact, it just might make you a better one. 

If you really want to be a better listener then stop talking, that at least will be a pretty good start. Listening well requires focus so put the smartphone down, turn the TV off, look the other person in the eye, be quiet and LISTEN, really really listen.