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| November 18, 2014

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading, “Listening”, was written by Zachary Jacques as a Leadership Reflection for the ITLP 2014 Leaders Program cohort.  Zach is Director of Research Administration Information Services at Cornell University.

One of my goals with the MOR ITLP program is to improve my presence, including presentation skills.  I have spent a good amount of time on these skills over the past year; practicing what I want to say before a presentation, asking for feedback from colleagues afterwards, studying topics beforehand to help increase my confidence, and watching examples of strong speakers as something to aspire to. 

Until last week, I had given very little thought to my role on the other side of the fence – as a listener. 

In a training exercise we held at Cornell last week we discussed the effect the listener can have on the speaker.  To demonstrate the effect we went through an exercise.  We paired up and one person played the speaker role and the other the listener.  In the first portion of the exercise, the speaker was instructed to tell a story for about a minute and the listener was instructed not to pay full attention.  After the minute was over, the speakers were asked to describe how they felt.  The speakers reported feeling irritated, frustrated, angry, small, unimportant, and not useful.  In the second portion of the exercise, the speaker was again instructed to tell a story and the listener to actively or attentively listen, asking questions of the speaker and paraphrasing back what the speaker had said to confirm understanding.  The speakers were again asked to describe how they felt after this portion of the exercise and they reported back feeling positive, engaged, and confident. 

As a leader I hope to inspire others to be engaged and feel their best about the work that they do.  I am reminded by this exercise, that to do this, I need not only to work on my skills as a speaker, but also as a listener.  In other words, if I want to improve my presence, I must focus on listening skills as well as speaking

In my one-on-one meetings I am going to refocus my efforts to shut off devices and practice active listening, giving full attention to the speaker.  In meetings I am going to try the same, as well as not interrupting the speaker so much, but taking notes with my questions and coming back at the end if they haven’t been covered.  I hope to improve my presence in this way and to set an example that others can follow.      

What kind of listener are you?  Are you fully present?  Do you find yourself waiting to reply or do you truly listen to understand what the speaker is trying to communicate first?

Very good advice.  Be present, listening carefully to the speaker whether it’s a one-on-one conversation or you are in a larger setting.  Give your undivided attention both to learn and participate as, well as to show respect.

.  .  .     jim