“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich
This last week has been a very hard week. I almost didn’t post. This is a painful time for us. The events going on around all of us are heartbreaking.
Like so many of you, I am sad, angry, and devastated by recent events in our country. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others are senseless, inexcusable and reflect the deeply ingrained racial prejudice and injustice that still exists in our communities today.
As a mom, a wife, a leader it is stirring many emotions and questions. How can this happen? What can I do? I think back to my own experiences and wonder if I could have done more. I remember an employee sharing with me how often he was needlessly pulled over on the way to work because of the color of his skin. It seems minor compared to today’s devastation but is it? Where does it start and how does it end? We must believe we are all made better by diversity and center on the notion of creating a world where everyone respected, appreciated and able to be themselves.
We need change. It begins not only by speaking out, but by listening. Listen to those around you as they share what it’s like to be a person of color in our country today or LGBTQ or Middle Eastern. We need to open our ears and then our hearts. Listen more and talk less. We don’t need to respond we just need to care. We don’t have those experiences and can’t even imagine them, but we can care and love.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill
Seek first to understand
Many of you may have studied Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and know that #5 is seek first to understand, then to be understood. Covey will tell us “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Listening is hard. It takes focus and truly being present. I wanted to do this week’s podcast on empathy, but my husband reminded me that you must listen first before you can be empathetic.
Effective listening is a skill and it must be learned and practiced. Put this crucial skill in your leadership toolbox and you are more likely to inspire excellence and dedication from those you lead than if you only focus on results. Effective listening is more than just hearing the words someone is saying. It takes energy and immense focus. The words they are saying is just the first part. What is their tone? What is their body language saying?
Leaders Must Build Good Relationships
Building positive relations is an important part of leadership, and listening is key to building good relationships. Effectively listening to others lets them know that you are interested in their needs, as well as what they’re trying to say. Remember, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. When people feel that you care about them, it will make them more likely to follow your leadership.
This is important for leaders of a customer facing teams; how can you expect your team to listen to your customers if you do not model the behavior for them. Also, there are times when you want to be listened to. If you don’t create a culture of respect through modeling effective listening your team isn’t very likely to listen to you when it matters most.
How to effectively listen
Here are a few effective listening techniques you can work on
Eye Contact – make good eye contact. Sincere, I am listening to you and focused on you eye contact. Eye contact can be done wrong and can be creepy. Be sincere.
Put Away Distractions – no phones or laptops. Close the lid and put them away. Even if you’re not looking at them it may seem that you aren’t focused.
Do Not Interrupt – you may need to stretch your patience, but if you want to earn their respect and trust you will not interrupt.
Repeat What You Heard – reinforce understanding by repeating back to them what they heard. No responding and reserve judgement. What did you hear and most importantly, convey how you think they felt through their tone and body language.
“Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.” L. J. Isham
The ELC (Everyday Leader Challenge) this week is to ask 3 people how well they feel you listen. Celebrate the wins and work on those opportunities. Feel free to post the responses on our Facebook Page The Everyday Leader Podcast.