by Jim Bruce
“Humble listening” is among the top four characteristics of leaders. – Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO, GE
“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” – Henry Ford
“To be able to motivate and inspire others, you need to learn how to listen in both individual meetings and at the group level.” – Christine Riordan, President-Elect, Adelphi University and leadership coach.
Many times over the course of a leaders program we remind program participants that relationships are the currency of the realm. If that’s so, then listening, truly listening, is one of the key facilitators to developing and having meaningful, productive relationships. Indeed, listening is a skill that we use for much of every day. It is not only key to building relationships but also every other aspect of leadership. Without it, you simply cannot connect and lead effectively.
So then, how shall I listen? To listen effectively, we need to treat listening as a discipline and become proficient in its practice. To be proficient, we must work at developing and enhancing our listening skills including seeking feedback and incorporating that feedback in our practice.
Note that I have used the word “ listen,” not the word “hearing.” To me, hearing is simply the process of detecting sounds and becoming aware that “ something” is there, whereas listening is the conscious processing of what we hear. Roland Barthes, a French researcher in the mid-1900s said, “Hearing is always occurring, most of the time subconsciously. In contrast, listening is the interpretative action taken by the listener in order to understand and potentially make meaning out of the sound waves.” But, it is even more than just hearing the sound waves, the words. Listening requires using and managing all of your senses, being aware of the speaker’s words as well as well his or her facial expressions, gestures and body language, feelings, etc. And, we need to be aware of our non-verbal responses, too.
As we go though our day, we listen in many different settings. Sometimes it is in a one-on-one setting, other times it’s in a group meeting, and sometimes you are a participant or speaker in a larger group setting. The good news is that the approaches you use to listen in each situation are generally the same. My checklist for listening may be helpful to you:
Listening is one of the most important things we do each day. The ability to extract information from a conversation or a presentation is one of a leader’s most important tools. Today’s Tuesday Reading will help you step up these skills. I trust that you’ll use this opportunity as you continue your leadership journey.
Have a great week. . . jim
1. Wikipedia, “Active Listening”
2. Ram Charan, “The Discipline of Listening”
3. Christine Riordan, “Three Ways Leaders Can Listen with More Empathy”
4. Christine Riordan, “How to Really Listen to your Employees”