Becoming a better Leader by Listening

I have been blessed to work with people in career transition for several decades.  This first started in a very unstructured manner when I became the vice president of human resources for the YMCA of Middle Tennessee in 1996.  People started reaching out to ask for career advice and this informal role has grown now to be a key part of my paying profession as well as a key volunteer avocation I have through the Career Transition Support Group at Brentwood United Methodist Church in Brentwood, TN.

While leading a webinar last evening I had one of those "aha" moments when I learned something new just by listening to the participants during my webinar.  listening-(1).jpgRather than hitting the attendees with a stock presentation, I had four key points I wanted to cover and then opened the floor for 35-40 minutes where I just sought their questions and also gained insight from the audience.  This event prompted my interest in diving a little deeper into the value of listening.

Melissa Daimler of Twitter wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review last year that touched on the different types of listening and also provided some great perspective on how to listen better.  The points below are borrowed from her article:

Levels of Listening:

  • Internal listening-focused on your own thoughts, worries or priorities even as you pretend to focus on the other person
  • Focused listening-listening to the other person, but not in a fully connected way
  • 360 listening-the best listening since you are hearing what they say, but you are also seeing how they say it and also assessing what is not being said

Melissa also offers these listening skill ideas:

  • Look people in the eye and fully focus on them and their message
  • Create space in your day, providing time for reflection, so that you can better focus on others when you are with them
  • Ask more questions in order to clarify and validate that you are both on the same page

I cannot tell you how many times in my career I wish I had listened better.  With the barrage of messages we now receive through multiple human and technology channels, the challenges to listening are even more difficult to evade.

Take time to listen to others well, and also take time to listen to your own thoughts and ideas without distraction, especially from technology.

I believe that you will find that your conversations will improve and that others who meet with you will find you to be an even better resource to draw upon.

You will also be a better leader because you will better understand the needs of those around you.