Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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  • Listening: an integral part of leadership success

    Recently I have attended several meetings and conferences and observed that many people wanted to express their point of view and be heard; but not so many were interested in listening to what others wanted to say. I recalled a class devoted to listening skills which I attended early in my career.  I believe the lessons I learned helped me become an excellent leader.

    To listen is to hear something with thoughtful attention.  It is the ability to understand what is being said.  Giving the speaker your full attention and consideration makes them much more open to sharing.

    The 5 key points to keep in mind when listening are:

    [1] Focus on what the other individual is saying.  This means that you cannot be formulating a response at the same time you are listening.  When you do this, expect to have some silence before you can respond.

    [2] Share some gentle reminders with your team periodically.  At least twice a month, I remind team members that listening and hearing what someone is saying does not mean you agree.   A team has an obligation to hear everyone’s point of view.  When individuals feel they have been heard without prejudice they are much more willing to accept the team’s ultimate decision.

    [3] Ask clarifying questions.  As the conversation develops, ask questions to fill in more detail or clarify what is being said.  Questions should not be confrontational in nature.  For example, “Why do you think that?” can be seen as judgmental and may cause the speaker to close down.  On the other hand, asking, “What types of experiences or data have led you to those conclusions?” allows the speaker to provide more supporting facts.

    [4] Be conscious of your tone and body language.   If you have a scowl on your face or your voice is extremely terse, the speaker will pick up on those cues and feel you are not listening to what they are saying.

    [5] Paraphrase the key message back to the speaker.  We each have a very different, but valid set of experiences.  Unless we repeat back to the speaker what we heard and receive their confirmation, we cannot be certain that we understood correctly.  It is too easy to filter the comments through our life experiences which can lead to misunderstanding.

    If you would like to refresh your own listening skills I recommend the following book: Listening – The Forgotten Skill”, by Madelyn Burley-Allen.  It contains both concepts and exercises for the reader.

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