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Monday, May 21, 2018

Are You Listening?

Not to be to a show-off, but I traveled the world today.

All before 1:30pm.

I had meetings with clients in Sarajevo, Washington DC, and Chicago.

OK, I'll admit that I didn't leave my house, because those were virtual meetings. But all the same, we collaborated on some interesting projects... We talked about management challenges across cultures, best practices for training new hires, giving leadership in a crisis, and how to invest over time in your direct reports.

All of those topics are worthy of extended discussion and coaching. But every conversation, from Bosnia to Illinois, started with one important ingredient: LISTENING.

Before I tell anyone what I think they need to do, I try to shut up and listen. And rather than simply reiterate the importance of this practice, I want to strongly recommend an article to you from Harvard Business Review titled The Power of Listening in Helping People Change. As the authors say, "our findings suggest that listening seems to make an employee more relaxed, more self-aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses, and more willing to reflect in a non-defensive manner."

Given these positive outcomes, why isn't good listening more prevalent in the average workplace? In others words, "Our findings support existing evidence that managers who listen well are perceived as people leaders, generate more trust, instill higher job satisfaction, and increase their team’s creativity. Yet, if listening is so beneficial for employees and for organizations, why is it not more prevalent in the workplace?" This article gives three convincing reasons why (I'm going to make you look up the article to find out what they are!)

Even better, the authors then six rock-solid ways to improve your listening skills. There are SO MANY articles out there that give super obvious, simplistic, bumper-sticker pointers. This article is a refreshing change. Though brief, it is motivating and challenging.

In one of my meetings today, I listened to a team as much as I could during our 90 minutes together. By the end, I felt ready to give them a heartfelt, specific challenge to press in to something difficult that they were reluctant to face. I believe they felt heard, and thus agreed to stay around the table as I signed off in order to talk things through together. I was encouraged by their receptivity, and heard later from the executive leader that the team bonded well and set a plan to move forward.

I'll finish with wise words from the HBR article:
Listening resembles a muscle. It requires training, persistence, effort, and most importantly, the intention to become a good listener.

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