I wanted to share with you a very rare and exotic skill missing in many “leaders” today. It is a skill that does not take years and years of higher education to acquire, decades of professional experience to discover, or the rarest of physical talents to achieve. It simply requires a decision to act differently and the discipline to follow through with it.
Here is the secret… decide to listen more than you talk! Simply put shut the hell up and let others speak in areas where they are the most qualified, educated and experienced. Don’t “listen” so you can offer a rebuttal the minute they stop talking. Don’t “listen” while on your phone the entire time not hearing a word they said. Don’t “listen” by offering a “I know but” the moment they take a breath between words. Don’t “listen” by acting like you are paying attention but inside you cannot wait to walk away, and then come back days later asking the same questions not remembering the previous discussion.
If you have subordinates, team members, or peers, that seem disengaged or not interested in their work, remember back to the first day you met them. They were not like that when they were hired. They were not like that when they spent hours honing their resume to make sure it was just right. They were not like that when they went out to buy a shirt and tie they could not afford just to impress in the interview, knowing they left the tags tucked inside so they could return it if they did not get the job.
So what happened? In many instances high performing employees will lose interest if their thoughts, ideas, and opinions are not heard or valued. Over time they many appear disengaged but for many, they have simply stopped using their energy and creativity to think of solutions if they have no belief they will be heard. High performing employees will look to find a different outlet where their voice is respected, heard, and valued.
I know it seems simple and we all think we are good at it but if we are honest with ourselves most of us need to work on this skill. Listening is a skill and takes practice just like any physical skill required of us. So make a decision to practice being a better listener by intentionally going into meetings or conversations with the goal to speak less and listen more!