Listen up!

Does this sound familiar… “are you really listening to me”?  We’ve been hearing this all our lives.  Seems like we should all be top-notch listeners by now; but the truth is it’s very easy to slide into the mode of just hearing, and failing to actively listen.  And like it or not, this impacts relationships and culture.  Many leaders find themselves shocked when they receive feedback that they’re not really listening, or coming across as impatient or just plain unaware of circumstances surrounding them.  But the outcomes are real, sometimes raw and always significant.

This isn’t a conversation, however, about the practices we’ve all learned to engage in active listening – removing barriers, focusing our attention, reflection and so on…although those are all important things!  As a leader, what I’m curious about, is how much you’ve considered the barriers to active listening that may exist around you.

  • Are you practicing silence?  As leaders, we’re often looked upon for the answers and to manage the conversation…but this doesn’t mean doing all the talking.  Active listening requires the space to peruse differing viewpoints and shared ideas – to hold the silence, even when awkward. 
  • Are you aware of the pressure?  We all feel it, but are you addressing it?  Or is it overwhelming and inhibiting you from stopping, staying focused in the moment, and really listening to what’s happening around you?
  • Are you ok with the emotion?  Interacting with people means you’re interacting with emotion.  Period!  Emotion will always be in the room – and active listening provides a tool to hold that emotion, possibly even temper it, so that a productive conversation can ensue.

Practice makes perfect they say!  Well, it’s a great place to start anyways.  Rather than just attempting to apply those “stop, drop and roll” tactics of active listening – apply a new lens with which to approach a more productive conversation and another resource in which to build your leadership skills.

Written by Shalyn Eyer