Leadership Best Practices
John F Kennedy
A CEO of a new local startup reached out to me for networking. I've always felt that networking with other people is a valuable way to help each other. Learn more (we an always learn something new). And help enhance the local business ecosystem. After providing the standard introductions, he immediately described his business model, discussed his product, customers, and current business situation. I asked about what he felt his biggest challenges were and how the market was engaging with his sales pitch. He shifted the conversation and mentioned he was interested in additional investment.
Without missing a beat he focused back on his pitch, value, and desire for investment -- only slightly acknowledging my questions. The gentleman was clearly a sharp person, though also didn't really listen to what I was saying. He was focused on himself.
He didn't REALLY listen.
How many times have you been at a meeting and provided a recommendation, thought, or solution only to have it seem like no one even heard you? Have you had a discussion with your boss and made a suggestion only to have him solely focus on what he wanted to do? Has someone made a sales pitch but didn't listen to what your problems really were? Have you been in a conversation just waiting to give your input ... thinking around how you would respond to others. But not really listening?
We all want to advocate for our own position, but without understanding others' input / thoughts / needs / recommendations we are losing out. The thing that makes good leaders great is that they use active listening with their teams, sort out the thoughts, and provide direction / leadership / recommendations based on what they've learned.
One person never has all the right answers.
Its very easy to focus on your own thoughts, what you want to say next, and ignore others. Have you been on a teleconference or meeting where you were multitasking or just formulating your next thought (and not paying attention to the conversation at all)?
When I was in the Air Force, one of their many process manuals discussed "communication" in many paragraphs of writing. I remember questioning the value of this at the time, though retrospectively, they were clearly trying to teach this value to their young leaders.
In short, the Air Force manual said you need three things for communication: 1) Someone to provide it, 2) A receiver, 3) Acknowledgement. The acknowledgement feedback was critical as it indicated that the person receiving the communication got it. They called it active listening.
Active Listening helps you focus on what people are saying and process it. Really listening. No distractions.
--- Three easy things ---
1) Focus your attention -- don't multitask on calls / focus your attention in 1:1 conversations. On calls, you're invited because you're needed, spend your full attention -- if you're not creating / adding value, maybe you shouldn't be on the call.
2) Jot down or remember concepts -- focus on who's saying what...and what it means. Don't spend non-talking time thinking how you'll respond.
3) Validate what was said -- to ensure your understanding. The 3rd piece of the military's definition is feedback. Though you may not always providing "feedback" retaining the right "validated" information is critical to creating the leadership value. Then use that to become the better leader.
“Active listening is not only a matter of making yourself available to hear someone talk, but it is showing the sender, physically, that you are receiving and understanding their message on all levels.” ― Susan C. Young,
Do you know people who are not active listeners?
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." --Stephen R. Covey