Listening sounds simple doesn’t it. In actuality it is not an easy thing. In our lives now we move at a frantic pace, often with several other things due to feeling as if they need to be done right now. When this happens, many times we listen much like speed readers do. We may attention for key words and pick up the highlights or worse, we may be listening to hear the break in their conversation, or listening to respond. We are all guilty of it, as leaders, parents or human beings, even if we do not realize it.There are practices that will help when meeting with the people you lead.
First you need to understand your pitfalls that cause the half-listening or degraded concentration. Most have these common traits that lead to poor listening.
Disorganized behavior – if you feel disorganized you will often feel as if there is no time, so you try to find you way out of the conversation.
Heard the message before – As a leader you often here things from multiple places, so you might cut them off. This tears down trust with the person you lead, because they feel as if you care less about their opinion than your own.
Multitasking – We’ve all seen bosses like this, they are typing while you are talking or looking away at something else. When you ask they saying they’re listening, but are unable to comment.
Second, once you have identified the pitfalls, create a game plan to overcoming it. For the common ones above, I’ve worked to make a conscious effort to reduce them. Disorganized behavior can be difficult, but create a calendar and prior to going into a conversation, review your calendar or to do list, so you can ensure there is nothing in your mind that is a flashing reminder of what not to forget. If you’ve heard the message before, that doesn’t mean you have heard the person you are talking to and their take on the situation. You might learn how they are responding to the message or a way to make it better than it was. Multitasking is probably the most difficult. This is a purposeful effort and often times will require help. Admit your faults and ask the people you lead to help hold you accountable. Essentially if you begin to pull away or check email, have them pull you back in.
Listening to understand is an art form that requires constant focus and iteration to your plan. Take the time to write out your pitfalls, share them with your people and follow through on working to minute them. Have some ideas on how you’ve learned to be a great listener, write it in the comments below. If you have a leader in your life that is struggling with listening and looking for help, share this message.