I have a younger sister and brother who are twins. More than 80% of the time that I share this familial fact, I am posed with the exact same question: Are they identical? This is always somewhat amusing to me, but mostly telling, for if any of these people were truly listening and present in the moment, they would have heard me say that I have a sister and a brother, which of course by definition means that they are most definitely not identical.
Why do I share this story? Besides providing you with a chuckle, it is a great example of how poor most people’s listening skills are. It also demonstrates that people aren’t engaged in the present moment, but instead are off thinking about other things. Or that they don’t genuinely care about my answer to their question, as it was posed practically before I finished the statement. So, the question I have for you is: How engaged and present are you when you are asking questions?
As a true and effective leader, it is important that you ask lots of questions, especially the hard ones, but it is also imperative that you listen carefully to the responses you receive. Then, of course, follow up with further questions when appropriate. Why is this so important? First, you will probably learn something. Being an active listener also demonstrates to people that you genuinely care about them and value their perspective or position. Furthermore, having a good ear helps to establish and grow you as a leader – meaning people will do more for you. Knowing that you are an attentive listener, your team will be more likely to follow you and more readily share with you their thoughts and opinions, especially if they are different from what you might assume. The mere fact that people know you are truly listening to them builds trust and is invaluable.
Now when I get that same silly “Are they identical?” question, I simply reply “Yes” and wait to see if the other party catches on. I will be frank, most times it goes right over their heads, which to me is even more telling and leaves me with a poor impression about that individual. I suspect you don’t want that type of snarky response from your stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, people in the community or even your family.
What are some things you do to ensure you are listening and being fully present in the moment?
By Blair Koch