Successful leaders listen because they know that they don’t know everything they need to know.
Who do you listen to?
Abraham Lincoln understood that if you surround yourself with people who agree with you, you will miss out on important information and perspective. Charged with unifying a divided country, he understood that the strongest cabinet was made up of people who did not all think alike.
If someone annoys you because they frequently bring up negative views, consider that they might be voicing the views of others besides themselves – views that you need to take into account.
When you keep those with differing views close to you, instead of banishing them, you can avoid getting isolated in an ivory tower.
By listening respectfully, you’ll gain an understanding of what’s really going on around you, and it puts you in a position to act with the interests of all in mind.
“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” – Abraham Lincoln
5 Tips to Listen Like a Successful Leader
Listening means hearing. You don’t have to agree with what you hear. All you need to do is make sure you understand what is being said.
1. Give your undivided attention. Don’t multi-task. Close your laptop, put away your phone, set aside your work.
2. Wait during a pause. Don’t interrupt or finish someone’s sentence, even if they pause. Let them find their own words.
3. Listen with curiosity. Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand what they are saying.
4. Separate your reactivity from the message. If they say something that annoys you or if you strongly disagree, pause and reflect on what exactly bothers you. It is almost impossible to think logically when you are emotionally charged. Consider whether there is possibly a kernel of truth in the message or something worth investigating further.
5. Don’t start thinking of your response while you’re listening. Have faith that your best response will arise after they have expressed their thoughts. Pause before you response to see what arises in you.
I especially appreciate your point to “separate your reactivity from the message.” I find that when someone says something that makes me angry, if I wait awhile before I respond, I see it in a different light and respond differently. Maybe the headline should be “keep your mouth shut if you’re angry.”
I think you’re right 🙂 Thanks for further illuminating that point, James.
Respond (never react)
You can’t UNPUNCH someone!
Great acronym – PURR. Thanks for enriching the conversation, Stewart!
Outstanding points on listening Jesse. This skill is so important to be an effective leader. One of my greatest learnings from coaching training that emphasizes your Point #5 – “Do not formulate the next question – until silence.” The other thing that has helped me improve my listening skills is to commit to always clarifying back what you have heard. Thanks for your continued great insights on effective leadership! You are a true blessing!!
Checking for understanding is so important. We often miss the mark when we assume we understand. Much thanks for adding to the conversation, Mark!
I think one of the scariest things for a leader is being surrounded by people who only agree with you. You will never see things the way they truly are, and it will only hurt in the long run.
An important point! If you’re only thinking about the short term, it’s often more comfortable to be with people who are like you. But as you point out, the price is in the long run.
and then on the practical side, there is always Dorothy Parker’s great line: “In a battle of wits, I never argue with an unarmed man.” Sometimes it is better to listen, nod your head and say “There appears to be a difference of opinion.” Some conversations are not worth the emotional energy.
Indeed, listening does not mean you need to agree.
It’s interesting how some are convinced that tuning into their phone, while you are speaking to them, does not compromise their ability to hear and engage what you are saying. The flip side of that coin is when you find someone engaged on their laptop or phone, check if you can interrupt. Jumping into your story does put you at risk of not being heard as they focus on what was already in play.
Great point about the responsibility of the speaker to make sure the listener is ready to focus. Thanks for sharing your insights, Thabo!