5 Ways to Listen Better

Listening is a critical skill.

I don’t think anyone reading this post would deny it.

As I watch the great leaders around me, I notice one thing that they have in common.  They listen.

Rarely are they the first to talk.  They listen, contemplate, and then ask questions.

And then, when they are ready to make a statement, those around them almost lean forward in anticipation of what is about to be said because they know that it will be important.

But why?

Because the leader’s words were built upon a foundation of first listening to others.

So, how do you become a better listener?

The first method of course is to simply close your own mouth, which many of us often find to be a challenge.  I’m the first to admit that I sometimes struggle in this area.  However, when I get it right, it’s amazing what happens.  I find myself listening more intently to those around me and understanding much more than I did before.

The path to improved listening, however, is more of a journey than a sudden magnificent change.  There are many methods, but each of them takes focus, practice, and conscious repetitious effort.

This weekend, I stumbled across a TED video by Julian Treasure that talks about 5 Ways to Listen Better.  So, I thought that I would share with you here to put more tools into your leader’s locker.

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So, what’d you think?  Pretty interesting!

Personally, I found the fifth exercise to be the best.  However, all are great tools to enhance your ability to listen to the environment around you.  And hopefully to not only enhance your ability to listen, but your enjoyment of it as well.

What exercises, tools, or tips have you found to help improve your listening skill?

Inspire With Why

People don’t buy what you do.  They buy why you do it.

In my down time, I really enjoy listening to people that inspire me with intriguing ideas.  TED.com is one of those places where I can always seem to find great inspiring content.

The other night, I came across a presentation by Simon Sinek (author, educator) titled How Great Leaders Inspire Action.  I found his comments to not only be logical and profound, but applicable to inspiring any audience (e.g., direct reports, team members, customers, etc.).

Sinek believes that if you explain and share why you do something, there is greater loyalty, buy-in, and inspiration as compared to simply communicating what you do.

My favorite statement in the presentation was, “There are leaders and there are those that lead.  Leaders hold a position of power and authority, but those that lead inspire us……we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to.”

The video is 18 minutes long.  I encourage you to listen to the entire presentation as he does a great job communicating his message.  I believe it will change the way that you think about communicating as a leader.

It did for me.

Creating Beautiful Music

I have this wonderful vision in my head.

I have this dream that my teams will function like a masterful orchestra that creates beautiful music and achieves brilliant success.

In order to get there though, they need something.  They need something from me.

Every great orchestra takes it’s cue from their conductor.  In the case of the team, they take their cue from their leader.  This is me.  This is you.

What is it though that they need from you and I to create beautiful music?

As I was perusing some of the TED videos, I came across one that intrigued me.  And struck a chord as to how great conductors lead.

Watch this amazing video from TED and I’ll catch up with you afterwards to share my observations and thoughts.

To start, I found this video to be intriguing.  Did you catch the leadership lessons?

The guy that brought us “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” marvelously displays how great leaders lead. [Actually, Bobby McFerrin is a genius of a guy if you ever listen to him talk.]

Here are 5 leadership lessons I observed:

  • Great leaders demonstrate the behavior or action that they want from their team. Did you notice how he started out simply by showing us what he wanted on the first note?  The team (audience) quickly picked it up because he was clear (even without using words) as to what he wanted them to do.  Once they picked it up, he moved on to the next note (lesson).  How often do you demonstrate desired behavior or lessons for your team?
  • Great leaders reinforce desired behavior. Did you notice how (even within a minute) he reinforced their understanding of the note by having them demonstrate and practice it over and over again.  Sometimes he would let them sing it alone and sometimes he would reinforce the note by singing it with them.  How often do you reinforce desired behavior when developing an employee?
  • Great leaders ‘let go’ and trust. Did you notice that he stopped instructing and singing and let them sing the notes?  He trusted that they would follow his lead, which they did because of the foundation of the first two points.  They also developed a reciprocal trust in him and his leadership.  How often do you ‘let go’ and trust that your team will do what what you have taught or instructed them to do?
  • Great leaders help their team understand the bigger picture. Did you notice that after they had established trust in each other and they were doing what he expected, he chimed in with his own melody over the top of what they were singing?  To me this was a great audible example of displaying how their part worked with the greater whole.  This gives meaning and purpose to those things that we ask our teams to do.  How important is it for your team to understand how what they do contributes to the greater whole?
  • Great leaders stretch their teams. Did you notice that once his team was comfortable with what they knew and trust was established, he started to stretch them in to the unknown?  In fact he stretched them down the scale beyond their learned limits and then back up the scale above their learned limits.  They did more than they probably ever thought would be possible.  How often do you stretch your teams to new heights?  To do the improbable?  The impossible?

The result?  Beautiful music.

Enjoy!

~Jason

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