The Art of Listening to Your Staff

the art of listening

 Art of Listening

Listening to your tutors is important. For example, consider a vice president of a Fortune 500 corporation meeting with his CEO. You need to know that this was his annual review, and he was baffled to discover the emphasis on one aspect of his feedback.

That is to say his peers, customers, and particularly other board members placed unusual emphasis on one problem. What was this problem? He had an art of listening deficit. Although considered among the best and brightest in his company, it was evident that this issue needed immediate attention. Specially if he wants to advance.

Bad Listeners

He wasn’t alone in that regard, data indicates that one out of four executives has a listening deficit. Importantly, this deficit can paralyze collaboration and sink careers. Above all, if it’s the CEO who can’t listen, it can derail the company.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. Despite today’s fast-paced business environment you can master the art of listening. Above all, conventional advice for better listening is for you to be emotionally intelligent and available.

However, for you to master the art of listening, you will need more than being available. As you move toward truly empathetic listening, consider these tips:

Pan for the Nuggets

To improve your art of listening pan for the nuggets. For example, I saw how Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell, did this.  While sitting down with a unit leader presenting him with information Bossidy divided a sheet of paper about three-quarters across.

Then on the larger left side of the paper, he scribbled detailed notes. On the smaller right side, he occasionally jotted down two or three words. To clarify, he was capturing what he perceived to be the key insights and issues being brought to his attention.

It is a simple technique forcing him to listen intently for the important content. Consequently, he could focus follow-up questions on points that really mattered. Whether or not this is your method, consider training yourself to sift for the nuggets in a conversation.

Above all, this lets the other person know that they were understood. Because, you will be probing, clarifying, or further shaping those thoughts. Furthermore, you will find that the benefits of listening to your tutors will go beyond ensuring that you heard it right. Your tutors will be gratified that you are truly grasping the essence of their thoughts and ideas.

Additionally, this gratification will motivate and energize your staff to create more thoughts and solutions. Your listening opens the door to truly connecting and is the gateway for you to build relationships and capability.

Consider the Source

When working with your peers, try to work to understand their frame of reference. In other words, where they are coming from.

If you truly understand the perspective of others, you are more likely to reach productive solutions. Above all, your staff will feel heard, whether their solution is adopted or not. As a result, it’s likely that any solution will not turn out to be one that was brought to the table by one person.

Active listening and probing energizes your groups and encourages them to reach consensus.

Slowing Down is Key

There is a reason that you have lost your ability to listen. It feels too passive, like the opposite of action. That is to say you want to move to a decision based on the information you already have. But in doing so, you will miss important considerations and sacrifice the opportunity to connect.

To clarify, you must understand that as you begin to change your listening style you may often feel inefficient. Above all, it will take time to truly hear someone and to replay their thoughts back to them. The payback will be dramatic, but it comes over the long run.

Keep Yourself Honest

No habit is broken without discipline, feedback, and practice. As well as installing a personal mirror to reflect on your own behavior, find a colleague to give you honest feedback. For example, find out how well you are tuning into the thoughts and ideas of others.

Therefore, lay out an exercise regime by which you will practice empathetic listening every day and strengthen your art of listening skills. Furthermore, make a habit of asking yourself after interactions whether you understood the essence of what was said to you. Did you get the person’s point of view, their context, and their emotion. Also ask yourself whether that person knows that they were heard and understood.

Why Listening is Important

For leaders, listening is a central competence for success. At its core, listening is connecting. Your ability to understand the true spirit of a message as it is intended to be communicated is key.

This is why, in 2010, General Electric redefined what it seeks in its leaders. Now it places “listening” among the most desirable traits in potential leaders. Indeed, GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt has said that “humble listening” is among the top four characteristics in leaders.

The art of listening requires courage—the willingness to let go of the old habits. Above all, embrace new ones that may, at first, feel time-consuming and inefficient. But once acquired, these listening habits are the very skills that turn would-be leaders into true ones.

Harvard Business Review – The Discipline of Listening by Ram Charan.  The Art of Listening.

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