Are you one of the 45% of managers whom Gartner reported lack confidence in developing the necessary skills your team needs for success? I am … sometimes. Through research, application, and experience I’ve narrowed down some underlying commonalities among leaders in small and medium sized organizations:
- Competing priorities of short-term goals and long-term company viability.
- Pressure about the lack of time to get necessary work done and the time needed to reinforce the right behaviors.
- Culture is harder to change when it’s been ignored and bad habits erode efforts to change.
There are times when the concept of competing priorities causes confusion about the way forward. Just like a magnet can confuse a compass from finding magnetic north. You and I are constantly looking and feeling forward in Present Retreats™ – what do we need to do, what does our company need to do, how are customers changing – to keep interference to our true north minimized.
Skills we need, and our employees need, are top of mind for the last several years. With technology changing so quickly, and the way we use technology ever-evolving, we are always facing a sense of urgency. It’s weighty. It’s unclear. It becomes a playground for doubt.
In business we want to be sure. With so much unknown, confidence is what will build your organization’s capacity to reach goals together.
We Think We Know Everything, Yet We Know We Don’t
Diane Collins, author of Do You Quantum Think?, reminds us that when we go to a concert there are times we talk and times we don’t. To really listen to music, we don’t talk all the time. The underlying message is that when we practice listening, we begin to hear more.
Focus tends to be on delivering the message. Taking time to be clear about what you must convey and the words to use to maximize understanding of who hears your message … a practice that makes sense since only 2% of people have had formal listening training. (Let’s be real: after message delivery any listening is seeking confirmation of understanding, not taking time to understand what is being said in response.)
Rodolfo Rameriz, COO of Swivl, recognizes this and is founder of a company that allows us to listen more closely to our customers by using artificial intelligence. The importance of seeking patterns and trends not only provides a more customized experience, but also allows you to work in a way that fosters creativity and innovation.
To really listen, you first must recognize that even with the best preparation there is opportunity for new and different information. The adaptability of leaders who achieve growth and strengthen culture recognize that thinking, preparing, and sharing is a way to open conversation … in addition to conveying information.
You Have What it Takes to be a Good Listener
And, it’s important to strengthen a pattern of success in your company. Creating repeated success means to shift how you show up – and such a shift in listening differently will bring some, if not all, of these results:
- More willingness and openness to understand others, which increases your awareness of what is really going on, making addressing an issue possible before it becomes a crisis.
- The structure of meetings becomes more intentional. Necessary elements will include: knowing the reason for each meeting, determining what components to report and discuss, and ending with clear action items.
- Interactions become meaningful and increase the connection between your employees.
- Discovery of new and more varied ideas to evaluate and prioritize.
- Increased visibility of more motives, which leads to fostering the right ones.
Many of us are uncomfortable with silence. In the car, on a call, in a meeting, at the dinner table…
When I was talking with Oscar Trimboli, he shared that it is important for you to “trust your intuition to know when to use silence. Too few of us are comfortable with silence. We just want to fill in the gap. Silence can do a lot more than what we think.”
Leadership has many paths, just like networks of hiking trails we view on a map. What we choose and the reasons for the choice(s) … we often make these without incorporating silence.
To practice silence you do have the Present Retreat tool (which I talk about on the program “Present Retreat Equates to Business Performance”) and your own meditation, or silence, practice.
To practice silence with others is just as important – a fact Oscar references when speaking about the need to fill the gap. Not only is silence a skill, it is a tool, too. Knowing that the people you are conversing with also have training, albeit indirectly, to fill silence means the person you are listening to has the space to share what is really in their heart and on their mind.
Other People Will Follow Your Behavior
Behavior emulation happens all the time. As social creatures a hard-wired need to fit in, humans quickly learn social cues for different situations. As a person making advancement decisions; evaluating job performance; providing candid feedback about work in the moment; and having your own thinking work and work product to deliver… sometimes you forget to reflect on how you act when seeing disliked interactions and patterns.
This means, if you don’t give someone your attention when they ask or if you ask for someone’s attention and then take it for granted – you are setting a poor example for your peers and coworkers / team members. Marilyn shared with me the importance of attention in a listening practice. She said, “One thing I know from having listening practices: you need somebody’s attention. Know when you have it, and when you don’t, when you’re face to face with somebody.”
All this takes real work … being present; choosing what skills you need in each moment; keeping centered on what the priorities are; determining the way work is done at your company; and discerning what moves you closer to your goals consistently. Time is what we need, what we all have the same amount of, and what can empower us.
Listening is an Art
More time taken early on, saves time later. Every single time. Listening is a way to connect, discover, and understand more to make better choices. Listening is being present and aware.
Oscar also shared with me that, “You need to circle back and you need to notice so one of the things you need to do is in the moment. As the leader it’s not to notice where the conversation is going, but is rather noticing who is left behind, and how to bring them along.”
Taking more time to listen increases your capacity to notice:
- What serves this moment?
- What really needs to be said here? Or: What isn’t being said that needs to be?
- Who isn’t keeping up with this conversation? Who is opting out?
Your journey, your work to guide your team to achieve – to achieve consistently, and to achieve more – comes from your capacity as a leader. There are three things you can incorporate right now that both I and my clients find useful:
- Acknowledge that listening is equally important as speaking.
- Be prepared to take the time to listen.
- Focus physically on another person when they speak.
Stay tuned for our ad-free podcast later this month. called The Art of Active Listening. Here’s our video introduction:
Provided you want to more fully incorporate dimensional leadership, for yourself and your company, reach out. Let’s have a conversation. Office hours are by appointment, and you can reserve a time here.
My mission is to see medium-sized organizations succeed by finding their true north, building capacity, and creating processes to align everyone to the same goal to achieve more.
For more tips on growth, leadership, and business strategy check out our previous articles.