His Ability to Listen
Hearing and listening are two different things. You can hear a siren; you can hear your neighbor berating each other. Unless you are waiting for an ambulance or you are looking for another topic to gossip about, then you are not listening. Listening takes great effort. Whenever my wife and I are in the car that is when we have some of our best conversations. As she is talking, sharing with me her most life changing idea, then at a pivotal point in the conversation, she decides to invite my input by asking what do you think. At this juncture of the conversation will decide if I have a future with her or not. I need to choose my next words carefully. What if I were to say could you repeat what you just said honey, then that will prove that I was not listening. Where was I all along? How will she feel? Well for one she is going to internalize this issue by thinking that she is not important.
The same principle can be applied to the workplace. A good leader will always be a good listener. Imagine that one of your team members has a problem or an idea they need to share with you. So, this team member mustered up some bravery to reveal what is in their heart. After they are finished sharing, what you do next will determine your success in this company. If your response proves that you were not listening, and this is the culture you have created in your work environment, your greatest asset which is your team will no longer be a team or your team. Yes, both you and they will work in the same building, but you are no longer a team. Their priority is to do the bare minimum and to watch the clock.
John Maxwell illustrates it very well. As soon as the clock hits leaving time, the only thing you will see inside the workspace are papers floating in the air from how fast they left the building. If you should look through the window, there would only be leaves floating. You may wonder how come they can leave so fast, well that is because as soon as they arrive at work, they back their cars into the parking space. They are already thinking about leaving.
Steps To Good Listening
So how do you listen? As they are speaking, you want to be looking them in the eye or at whatever they are showing you. But do not steer. You want to be nodding your head where ever you can agree but not like a bobble head. Sometimes you can nod your head at areas that you do not agree; this does not mean that you agree with them. Instead, you are saying that you hear what they are saying and you understand. Use words like “yes” this will let your team know that you are listening. Ask question as they are sharing, this will confirm to your team that you are following along. Do not interrupt and take over the conversation. This is their moment allow them to run the show. If you must comment, start with words like, “so what you are saying is… ” but keep it brief. When they solicit your input or if you see a problem with the idea start with words such as “what if we were to do it this way or that way so that… “ I must encourage you that you are not losing power or face by asking your team member what they think. Instead, you are empowering them and confirming to them that they are a valuable player.
At the end of this conversation, your team member will walk away thinking that you are the greatest leader. That you do care, and that they are in a place where they are valued. They will go the extra mile for you if needed; they will defend you if needed. They won’t even notice that there is a clock on the wall.