During executive coaching sessions over the course of this summer, the subject of listening has been a source of much discussion. Often an older executive will want to discuss how to help younger leaders listen better, and not interrupt so much. Some of these senior executives struggle with the lack of analog based dialogue.
Other leaders want to discuss how to get teams of people to listen better to each other. They recognize that if the team is not doing this very well with other team members then more likely they are not listening to their customers or internal partners very well either.
While we have explored the technical aspects of listening and speaking as a leader during these coaching sessions, many have responded by asking, “But, what do I need to do as a leader to help others to listen better?” The question is a good one and my response has caused quite a few of them to stop, sit quietly, think deeply, and then share at a different level.
“You need to listen holistically, not just with your head, if you want others to listen better,” I tell them. “This will require you to slow down and listen to the tone of their voice, their body language and the rhythm of their language. We, as leaders, forget in our rush to get things solved and done that oral communications is the second form of communication. The primary form of communication is what we do before, during and after we communicate. We must remember that our message is often communicated before we even speak, and the person we are communicating with is often working on their response before we even have time to finish our thoughts.
Therefore, we need to listen holistically, not just with our head, recognizing that every one is doing the best they can with the time and limited information they have received. In short, be more compassionate in your approach to listening, and along the way, trust your gut.
In essence, your compassion, your kindness and your ability to being total present when an individual or group that is sharing something with you is the foundation of your listening. When everyone sees, feels and hears this depth of executive presence, then speaking and listening will be transformed.
So, speak less, listen holistically, and be 100% present when you are with others. Over time, this will be a new beginning for all involved.”
After a time of reflection, many senior executives will share that this is what their favorite boss did with them as they moved up through the leadership ranks. I smile, nod my head, and say “yes.”
This week, focus on your listening. It is important and mission critical to your success as a leader.