Wednesday, August 15

Leadership and Listening

One of the principles and most important skills of servant leadership is deep and active listening, yet it is also one of the most neglected. It is said that we spend 75% of our waking time communicating: 40% listening; 35% talking; 16% reading; and 9% writing. Yet typically people hear less than 25% of a conversation. In an article in Fast Company, Ruth Sherman writes:

Becoming a good listener is a terrific way to gain attention and win people over, precisely because it is so rare to find someone who does it well. Human beings find great comfort in being listened to. When we find a good listener, we take notice; we advertise this fact when referring to the person or recommending them to others. We look for opportunities to be around this person.

As a coach and counselor, most of my time is spent listening. And though extremely draining as a discipline, it is one of the most rewarding things one can do for another person. Clients leave with a sense of validation after being actively listened to. Sherman goes on to share some techniques for what she calls intent listening, which she says takes some discipline:

• Give your full attention.
• Resist planning your answer while someone is speaking.
• Resist the urge to interrupt, except to ask for clarification.
• Leave your value judgments at the door.
• Don’t allow interruptions. Usually, whatever it is can wait.
• If your mind begins to wander, exercise discipline and bring it back. Ask the person to repeat anything you might have missed.
• After being introduced to someone, listen and try to remember the name. (Most of the time, we’re so focused on the impression we’re making that it goes in one ear and out the other.)

Think about when watching a movie or a play. We listen intently so as not to miss what is going on and to be an active part of the plot. Our lives and work are the greatest storyline we have going. Should we not give as much, if not more, attention to the plot of our own lives?

Read the rest of Ruth Sherman's article in Fast Company.

To lead is to serve,
Coach Carolyn

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