The art and discipline of listening—what an extraordinary skill for leaders! Honing this skill can strongly contribute to catapulting you to success, because everyone likes to talk and be heard.
Listening well is another aspect of human nature that continues what I’ve been writing* about the last two months. It seems obvious, but things that are obvious often get overlooked as critical tools for becoming a great leader.
Wheels on Luggage
As one example of overlooking an opportunity, do you assume that we’ve always had wheels on luggage? It does seem so obvious, but it wasn’t until 1987 that a Northwest Airlines captain, working in his home workshop, decided to put wheels on luggage. His goal was to make the life of the flight crews a bit easier.
His design caught on and out came The Original Rollaboard®, and within a short time this concept was so popular that commercial aircraft were modified to carry wheeled luggage overhead.
Watch this month’s brief coaching clip on this topic, and then continue reading the article below –
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Human Nature Under the Microscope
Most of us have some knowledge of human nature, but how have we applied it? I had always been interested in it, but it took a new turn when I was locked up as a POW with male combat veterans for many years. I was captured at 24, and the average POW was six years older than me. Many had already been leaders, but learning became a daily process for all of us during those years.
In those cells, we could not help but listen to each other and get to know a lot about each other in a more in-depth way. It’s impossible to pretend 24 hours a day that you are something that you’re not, because the good, the bad, and the ugly eventually come out. This life-changing experience gave us lessons that we can use today, and listening was one of them.
Maturity and Security in Listening
In March, we talked about the importance of believing in yourself.
When leaders are truly comfortable with themselves, they can be vulnerable and authentic. They don’t have to pretend they are perfect or know all the answers. [Tweet This]
Authenticity is one of the strongest influencers that leaders can have.
But this month I want you to consider how believing in yourself frees you to connect with and give to others. If you are secure, you are more likely to be a giver than a taker.
Here are 3 reasons why listening is a true leadership gift –
1. Listening is needed by others.
In the last 25 years, I’ve surveyed hundreds of groups asking them to reflect on their greatest leader and share the one attribute that set them apart (assuming the person had good character and integrity).
Are you ready for the Rollaboard revelation? Listening was the most common response by a large gap over number two. You may be thinking, “Why is that?” which is a good question. When you intentionally listen to someone, they feel valued and important. It’s human nature—we see it in babies, but all research shows the same to be true of adults. Honorable leaders discipline themselves to listen to their people.
2.Listening helps others believe in themselves.
When you listen to others you are being available, accessible, and approachable, making them feel safe, comfortable, and valued. This feeling of being worthy helps them gain inner confidence and believe more in themselves. You are helping them grow into a healthier and more productive person and leader—just like others have hopefully done for you.
Do you see how belief and security in yourself provides a solid foundation to adapt your behavior in any relationship to focus more on giving to others? And in relationships at work and home, giving often means listening with a high degree of respect and emotional intelligence.
3. Listening is not easy.
Based on many years of using our Leadership Behavior DNA assessment, we know that 40% of the population is naturally bent toward results, mission, and tasks. Their minds automatically spring toward logic and rational, objective thinking. And as leaders they naturally trust their own idea more than others’. So listening is not natural for them.
The other 40% are naturally bent toward people and relationships. Their minds automatically spring toward feelings, and emotions like empathy. Many of them are big talkers and not good listeners and even those who are good listeners will still have a problem.
To be a great listener, you must adapt and listen from both mindsets.
If someone is communicating from emotional/heart/relationships perspective and your first response is from rational/logical/results perspective, it will be received as cold and distant. Identify with the person’s perspective first, and then explore if they’re receptive to a rational perspective.
In personal relationships, research from some of the top marriage therapists shows that a good healthy dialogue requires the ability to know when and how to operate from what they call “separate knowing” and “connected knowing” which is very similar to the rational/logical/results and the emotional/heart/relationships thinking mentioned above.
“If you look back at all your relationships, you will likely recall times when a relational train wreck occurred because one person was communicating from the head and one person from the heart.” [Tweet This]
Your goal is to become more aware of where they are and where you are. To be a good listener, you must join them on their level—head or heart.
When you believe in yourself, you don’t have to use your logic to prove you are right and you don’t have to agree with them to feel accepted and safe. You’re able to focus on them, which is mutually beneficial. Their respect and value go up, and yours does too.
I believe in you, and we would love to hear your stories of how you have grown in listening to others!
LE [Tweet This Article]
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*Lee refers to these two previous articles:
“4 Leadership Lessons Learned Under Pressure” – Click to Watch and Read
“3 Ways to Have a Heart in Leadership” – Click to Watch and Read