“Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” James the Great
I cannot even count the number of times that I have broken this rule! Listening seems so easy . . . just sit there with your mouth closed and ears open without jumping in with an opinion or advice. Turns out it’s not that easy for people like me!
Listening is definitely something that takes patience, practice and discipline to do properly. However, it is incredibly important for every leader to master the art of listening. The benefits of listening to those around you can be huge while the downside of not listening can devastate your relationships, career and business!
When you are quick to speak and you listen very little, you will steamroll over the great thoughts, ideas, solutions and feelings of all those around you. If no one gets a chance to fully explain their thoughts before you interrupt them with your advice and opinions, you will begin to isolate yourself from the full potential of these people. You are slowly choking off their willingness to engage you in conversation and this means that you are choking their potential, your potential and the organization’s potential.
When you fail to listen to someone, you;
1) are telling them that they have no value to you and you begin to destroy or minimize relationships.
2) will miss out on things that you need to know to run your business successfully.
3) train your organization not to solve problems but to bring them all to you.
4) will never know what great ideas you have missed, choked and trampled.
However, when you are quick to listen, you;
1) show everyone that you have the time for them and that you respect them and their thoughts.
2) are able to gather information and ideas that are critical to you and your organization’s success.
3) are able to gather information that will enhance your organization’s products or services.
4) foster an environment that encourages openness, sharing, innovation and problem solving.
5) build lasting respect and trust.
So where do you turn if you need to learn to listen better? Fortunately there are many sources of great information on this topic. One good point to start is to refer to Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives by Henry and Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl and Laura Whitworth. Their work shows that there are three levels of listening;
Level 1 – Internal Listening: this level of listening is self focused. You are hearing what is said but you are only listening to find out how what you are hearing affects you and that’s it.
Level 2 – Focused Listening: this is active listening using all your emotional intelligence skills. You are not just listening to the words but you are singularly focused on the speaker, reading emotions, expressions and body language while being responsive and interactive only when appropriate. We should all strive for this level as a minimum.
Level 3 – Global Listening: this is being a Level 2 listener but taking into account the environment and the people around you at the same time.
I leave you with the challenge to become a Level 2 listener at the very least and strive to become a Level 3 listener. Always be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Your relationships, career and business depend on it.
“Effective listening requires more than hearing the words transmitted. It demands that you find meaning and understanding in what is said. After all, meanings are not in words but in people.” Herb Cohen