Listening is one of the core leadership skills. It is a skill that can be developed and honed. It creates amazing benefits.
How often do you find yourself listening to others? What are you listening for? What are you learning?
How do you listen in a way that creates benefits?
Listening starts with listening to ourselves and, over time, developing our Personal Mastery (Senge, 2006).
There are two parts to this type of rich listening. Firstly, it requires increased awareness of self:
- Give yourself permission to be present
- Clear your mind
- Be present
- Listen with intention – to understand and learn
- Notice what is going on inside of your mind and heart as you are listening
- After a conversation, reflect on what happened for you and what your learning was
- Note what you might explore going forward
Secondly, it involves being in true dialogue with others. Bohm and Krishnamurti (1997) introduced the concept of dialogue, stating that “dialogue can be considered as a free flow of meaning between people in communication, in the sense of a stream that flows between banks. These ‘banks’ are understood as representing the various points of view of the participants.”
In such dialogue, then:
- Notice what is and is not being said
- Resist the temptation to make assumptions or jump to conclusions
- Ask curious questions to increase your understanding of what is being shared and of what is important to the other person
- Further show that you understand by paraphrasing what the other person is saying
- Summarize so that you come away with the same mutual understanding
- Follow-up with a thank you for the conversation and on any commitments made during the conversation
What are the benefits of this type of listening? Bohm (1997) shared that … “it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information [dialogue] is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated.” Additional benefits are:
- It builds trust and rapport
- You learn more about the other person
- People feel heard and respected
- You learn more about what is being shared
- New, beneficial ideas may surface
- You come away with new understandings, new perspectives and new ideas with which to move forward
- You come away with an understanding what is important to the other person and what their style and values are so that you can take those into account for further communications
- Used consistently, this can lead to increased alignment and engagement, productivity, and innovation
What if you were to let go, listen and create true meaning in your conversations with others? What is possible? What if you do not make the space to use these deep listening skills? What would you prefer? How will you do this?
Bohm, D. (1996). On dialogue. New York, NY: Routledge.
Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Crown.