Updated: Jun 11, 2020
Welcome to our leadership blog. In our last discussion, we provided the principals of LEAD. Today, we are exploring the first LEAD principle of Listening in more detail. Let’s start by doing some self-evaluation.
What courses have you taken to make you a better listener? We can take speech classes, writing classes, and practice them often. But how many of us take or have taken listening courses? Another reflective question might be, how many of us want to think we are good listeners? Yet, deep down inside, we instinctively know that we are not that good of a listener and can provide the scars from our past to prove it.
Without a doubt, I would bet that most leaders desire to be good listeners and often believe we are better at listening than those around us would acknowledge. It’s that statement that causes us to get blind-sided at times. Author and Leadership expert, Sam Chand, often says, “Things don’t just go wrong, they start wrong”. As leaders, we often receive indicators that things are going or are about to go wrong. Too often, we credit procrastination as the primary cause of this behavior. While that is a very possible cause, there is another factor that causes us to ignore or delay acting on it. I believe, that ignoring these indicators is a fundamental result of not listening at all or not listening with the urgency or intent to understand.
Given our current environment of social distancing as the world deals with COVID-19, listening maybe even more important today than it was before implementing social distancing. So why do I say it is more important today than before? I would argue that it is more important today because we need to listen and hear what people are not saying now as equally as we listen to what they are saying. Before social distancing, we were focused more on what people were saying without pausing to really listen. Today, we are forced to slow down and be more still and are probably more attentive.
As I complete this blog, I awoke to learn that in the US, we had more than 6 Million unemployment claims. For as many of us who easily transitioned to operating in a virtual environment, there are a host of people that have not done so effectively nor have had the opportunity to do so. As I spend countless hours on video and conference calls, I am finding that this isolation is causing people to feel trapped. When I think of the phrase trapped, I think of it in its noun and verb form. Anything or anyone negatively affected or impacted by a trap may be considered a victim. When we consider victim behavior and responses one thing is for sure, whether it is outwardly expressed or not, freedom from the trap is always desired.
However, if we aren’t good listeners (and sometimes, even if we are) or we listen just for a moment to speak, we may miss the crisis expressed in someone’s conversation that communicates they are trapped and ready to take drastic measures to break free. Let that soak in for a moment as you process it.
I thank you for at least taking a moment to reflect on your listening skills. If you do not believe you can improve your listening, you may as well stop reading now. But if, like me, you realize there is always room for self-improvement.
The remainder of this blog will give some interesting statistics. According to TRANSFORM (https://transforminc.com/2014/07/interesting-facts-listening/), the next time you get ready to have a conversation with someone, you should consider these facts:
85% of what we have learned is through listening (not talking or reading). (Shorpe)
75% of the time, we are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful. (Hunsaker)
After listening to someone talk, we can immediately recall about 50% of what was said. Even less is we didn’t like the subject or the person! (Robinson)
One hour later, we remember less than 20% of what we heard. (Shorpe)
Less than 2% of the population has had formal education on how to listen. (Gregg)
We listen at 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1000-3000 words per minute. (HighGain, Inc.)
When listening, try to suspend your assumptions, refrain from making judgments, and silence your inner chatter long enough to listen, really listen, to what the other person is saying. Listen with your ears, engage your body posture to display interest, and steady your mind on the person speaking by minimizing and avoiding other distractions. As Deborah Tannen, author of many books on communication says about listening, “It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.”
The next time you are in a conversation with someone, try considering the above statistics to improve your listening skills and interactions. I can’t guarantee better outcomes, but I can offer a learned experience from a leadership perspective. Listening not only helps those being listened to but if we truly listen, we will find that those who follow us will begin to follow us more intently. Lastly, remember, you are not considered a leader if no one is following you.