We have recently run some sessions on the importance of listening and how to ensure we listen and hear our people and our customers when they are communicating with us. It sounds so obvious and easy doesn’t it, but to listen really well is a great art.
Here are 5 simple tips to improve your listening and, in doing so, increase your personal effectiveness as a team leader and a team player:-
1. Is now the right time?
Recently my 10 year old ran in from school desperate to tell me the latest playground events which had helped shaped his day. I was at home working on a big project plan, deep in creativity and flow with a colleague. I was in my “zone” and did not want to be disturbed or taken out of my moment as things were really flowing well for me. Now was not the right time for the conversation, so we agreed to connect later when I had finished, which we did and had a long and diverse discussion about all the day’s events.
It is important when we wish to converse with someone that we check with them if the time is right. If they have a pressing deadline or are deep into a P&L analysis then the chances of them hearing you will be greatly diminished owing to the noise in their heads. Schedule a time when you can both be fully present.
2. Quieten your mind and think about their agenda
The key to good listening is a quiet head! All too often we fill our heads with lists of actions and deadlines, anxieties and desires, all mapping out our own current agenda. To connect well and hear someone else we need to quieten this noise and make way for their messages and agenda. Different people have different ways of doing this, but a simple 1-2 minute exercise to steady your breathing and relax your muscles is a great place to start if you’re no yoga expert!
3. Focus on them
We live in a society of distractions!! Be it iPod, iPad, Laptop. Blackberry, SMS, email, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat….I could go on… Today it’s all too easy to be distracted by other stuff. As soon as we get distracted we are not fully present with the person speaking with us and they will know. The best thing to do its put all gadgets down and out of sight (and turn vibrate off if in a pocket), then look at their eyes and maintain good eye contact throughout the conversation. This gives the other person the respect they deserve and will significantly impact on the amount of information your “hear” during the dialogue.
4. Project gratitude and appreciation
We mentioned earlier the problem of our own agenda filling our minds so we cannot hear new information. We can also put blocks up through our own judgments and ego getting in the way. One of the best ways to free your mind from such negative thought is to be in gratitude towards the other person. When you look at them, just think appreciative thoughts about them and actually don’t worry too much about listening to them….you’ll be amazed at just how much you hear! You’ll be creating a safe space, and they will fill it and you will see and feel beyond the detail, beyond the symptom and towards the true underlying issue. Try it and see!
5. Keep calm and still
Remaining centered is a fundamental must-have when listening. The best way is to sit with your feet flat on the floor, and hands on thighs to stop them fidgeting. This will help you control your breathing and your focus and make you more receptive to others.
Of course, practicing all the above every time someone wants to talk is a little impractical, but having knowledge of these 5 elements and employing as many as possible can revolutionise your listening ability and the positive impact on your team will be astounding as they realise just how much you value their thoughts, input and feedback.
Good luck and happy listening