You don’t have to talk, to be heard.
Think about that statement and its importance to the human experience. Now think about the importance of that trait in leadership and management. Thoughtful and active listening takes purpose and practice. I know it does for me, and like others, my auto response is to talk, counsel, fix…I mean c’mon, I have a lot to say…
According to Jenny Blake, a career strategist and former Google career coach, “Great leaders and managers make listening a priority. Not just any listening, active listening.”
The following 3 areas are my bite-size philosophies that bring active listening to the front of your mind:
Listen to manage: Managers often deal in some variation or temperature of conflict, be it with employees, customers, or processes. Easy to listen when one is getting praise; hard to listen when one is being challenged. The following is a very simple and effective practice in the art of listening to manage, and that is first saying to yourself, “Just shut up and listen” before talking.
After you thoughtfully shut up and listen, then assess and ask open-ended questions, and shut up and listen again. Conflict or not, listening is a practice your stakeholders will hear. It exemplifies that you are considerate of what may be their most important issue in their world in that moment in time.
Listen to lead: Great leaders listen to their stakeholders. They listen to strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). They listen before setting vision and mission. They let their stakeholders be heard.
Listening to lead facilitates agility. Being nimble and recognizing areas to pivot or stay the course is critical to leadership. In my article, “Ideas are for Show, Execution is for Dough,” listening is a key trait to the process of moving an idea to strategy and then execution; and execution is the scoreboard, not the idea. So get it right by listening first, then acting accordingly.
Listen to Learn: Listen (or read) content that counts, content that gives you energy, ideas, curiosity, and narrative. I voraciously listen to (or read) content that feeds my mind, which I’ve aptly dubbed brain food. Some of my favorite podcasts that I recommend to anyone (who’s listening) are The Tim Ferris Show, Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu, The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes, and The James Altucher show.
I voraciously listen to these in my commute and workouts, as they are timely, meditative, and positively influence my mindset. These morsels of brain food (and others) act as a magnet to my compass. I layer my thoughts into what I hear on these shows, which is either validating or sparks new ideas and with energy important to my world. Moreover, the interviews are just really good and relevant given the varying interview styles, quality of guests, and their varieties of success!
I practice listening voraciously because it is not an instinct of mine. I listen as a manager, a leader, and ultimately as someone who is self-aware and understands the importance of mindset. As a manager and leader, husband and father, and general human being, my impact on my surrounding world affects others, directly and indirectly. Therefore, I owe it to them (and myself) to practice the art of being a voracious listener, purposefully and continually. Don’t you?
Go Forth and Succeed!