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Is Listening a Lost Art?

Is Listening a Lost Art?

Have you ever asked a colleague for input only to stop listening to their response? Do you notice that some colleagues are so distracted that they aren’t really listening? They ask a question and move on to something else before hearing the answer.

In this instant gratification society, with the focus on outcomes, we may be losing the art of listening.  Those we are listening to never get to finish their thought. We miss valuable information.

Listening aids in better idea generation, collaborative thinking, and better solutions. Listening works best when we suspend judgment or the need to change someone else’s ideas. As people tell their story, they are able to verbalize and process the information.  If we interrupt them, we take away their time to think and find a solution.

Has our active listening actually become “fake” listening?

We use the verbal and non-verbal cues to show we are listening. The head nods, we mutter the uhms” and “ahas.” Instead, while someone else is talking, we’re busy formulating our response. Worse yet, we’re distracted and thinking about something else.

When we listen and let people finish their story without judgment, people start to feel heard. Active listening turns into conscious listening. It gives people an opportunity to abandon their old paradigms. If people feel heard, they are able to find their own answers. New ideas and thinking can emerge.

An executive recently said, “I don’t have time to listen to people’s stories. All I hear is whining and complaining. I need answers to make our numbers.”

When someone complains, they are uncomfortable with the current situation. They are looking for a better way but may be stuck. Hidden within the discussion is actually the answer. Through listening to the story, we can help our colleague seek a better solution.

By squelching the conversation, we actually perpetuate the same story. We inhibit others to think. It’s no wonder we end up short of the goal.

So, is the issue the company’s failing results? Or are we deficient in listening and unable to make sound business decisions?

The next time you have the urge to interrupt or check out; start listening. Set aside the electronic devices and other distractions and listen. Let your colleague finish their story. By listening, we create a safe place for discussion. Through discussion and collaboration, you pave a path to better business performance.

 

Approach Leadership with the Curiosity of a Beginner

Approach Leadership with the Curiosity of a Beginner

In Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki says “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in an expert’s mind there are few.”

All too often, I’ve noticed leaders assume they need to know what to do and have all the answers. Could our actions be inhibiting our ability to develop trusting business relationships? Could the need to be an expert be stifling the organization’s ability to perform?

A recent conversation reminded me how easy it is to fall into the trap of trying to be the expert. My colleague just entered a new role. He was regaling the nuances of his new job. In a few short weeks, he was already speaking about all that was wrong with the company and its leadership. He was rolling his eyes at the thought of yet another business review, saying “What a mess.”

I wondered, had my colleague moved too quickly to judging without fully knowing the people or understanding the business? Would he and the company be better served if he had taken on a beginner’s mind versus acting like an expert?

The entry into a new role is a great time to approach the assignment with a beginner’s mind. It’s a time to be open to the possibilities for learning and connecting. It’s a time to explore and identify the best approaches to leading going forward.

It starts with listening and creating a safe place for others to share ideas. Remember, if you are talking and telling, there isn’t room for listening and learning. When we inquire, ask questions and engage people in a dialogue, new ideas can surface.

Seek to understand how things operate without the need to assess, judge, or make a decision. When comments don’t fit our way of thinking it’s easy to discount the information and stop listening. The ideas and suggestions may make us uncomfortable. But, if we listen with a beginner’s mind, it is possible for new ideas and thinking to emerge.

Stay a beginner and avoid the pull to step in and be the expert. If we’re too quick to step in, it can stifle the development and expertise of others. This misstep could cause missed opportunities in the future.

What are ways you stay open to the possibilities?