How Are You Listening?
“Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.” ~ Alice Miller
“You say yes, I say no, You say stop, I say go, go, go. Oh, no…” ~ Paul McCartney
When you hear or read, do you spend more energy on how to understand or how to label the content? One way of determining if you are a leader is whether you listen more often to learn or to judge. When your mind is trying to understand, it is open to all kinds of possibilities. You are trying to make connections with the new information to the information you already hold in your brain. This allows for many new pathways for the information to go. It’s the route of knowledge. If you are labeling, you are making a decision, often quickly, to dismiss new information or hold onto it. You are not processing for further use. While one is an open-door approach, the other is a closed-door approach. Which would you rather be more of – a leader or a judge? And how about the person who leads you – would you prefer one over the other?
In human development with maturity comes learning, then judging, then learning again. As a child you don’t know enough to judge; your mind is open to explore and absorb so you are able to make connections, memories and learn. You wonder about everything because it is new to you. As you grow into an adolescent, you become more familiar with judging as a way of coping with the deluge of information you have coming at you combined with the past accumulation, making sense of it and protecting yourself through sorting it. Then when you further mature, you realize you are safe to open your processing again, building and strengthening your knowledge without feeling the need to judge.
I discovered this in leadership classes; I had to confront my own challenges in my leadership style. I was forced to be independent at an early tween age with two parents working, so I gathered confidence depending on myself. Because of this as I got older, I wasn’t motivated to hear other people who didn’t agree with me, I simply wanted to get things done. I dismissed other’s thoughts which I believed were nonessential; I judged if their opinions and suggestions agreed with mine or made quick sense and if they didn’t dismissed them. To me what was survival was judged by most people as arrogance. It wasn’t until people I trusted opened up to me about this flaw that I realized how I was being perceived and all I was missing. It was painful hearing this because I meant no harm, but was causing it anyway. I made a promise to myself to do better. I not only changed my behavior at work, I also changed my behavior with friends who complimented me on listening more and being more empathic. It made me a better leader for today’s challenges.
Because I had learned this flaw in leadership, I was able to recognize it better and more quickly with clients. And, together we leaned in gently to see how team members’ attitude and behavior change with a tweak in listening with empathy by the leader and role model. For instance, the potential Managing Director who wasn’t actively listening to the compliments and advice she was receiving from senior colleagues who were not her boss – choosing to minimize or dismiss them; or, the Human Resource Director who only saw the troublemaking employee and the ruckus she caused and not the reasoning and emotions behind her complaint; or, the Partner who wasn’t receiving the respect and results he felt he deserved with his title, never considering why his behavior might be the source of the problem.
By the way, people who have a difficult time listening to others with empathy often have a challenging time listening to themselves and their own needs too. Judging without listening is harmful to yourself too. Your health and well-being can only improve by paying attention, not dismissing.
So, what kind of leader do you want to be? You choose whether to lead more via listening with judgement or via listening using empathy toward learning. If you don’t like the results you’ve been receiving, or simply want to try a different approach to see how your colleagues, family and direct reports will respond, try to listen more toward understanding and judge less. See what happens. If you could use some support, email me: Susan@SusanGoldbergConsulting.com We can work on this together and I promise I will listen to understand.
Are there challenges within a team you lead? And, solutions you’ve used before aren’t cutting it for today’s issues? We can work together to gather the information and formulate the inspiration so you and your team can become more productive and fulfilled. Your bottom line will feel the results. There are three levels of service options within Golden Monocle™. To learn more and discover which services suit your needs, contact me, Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com .
My work as a leadership and communication expert has me go into organizations, as an outside unbiased view to look at the information gaps. Using proprietary and trademarked solutions including a team mapping tool, Collaboration Beyond Words™, I identify what an organization is missing that’s holding it back from thriving and continuing to stay relevant. Have practices become entrenched or no longer fit your plans for today’s workplace and goals? Contact me: Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com Let’s talk.