Listening is one of the fundamental and essential skills for a leader. Active and full listening is non-judgmental, unconditionally constructive, and totally for the person to whom we are listening. Active and full listening provides the clues a leader needs to ask the right question in the right way in the right moment. Without active and full listening there can be no true leading.
Many times when we would like to think we are listening, we aren’t. We may hear others; but we aren’t really listening. We don’t listen most of the time. We pause and wait. We wait for our turn to talk again. While we are waiting, we are thinking ahead for the point we want to make next, or about what we want for lunch, or how boring or incompetent this person is.
I’ll say it again, without active and full listening there can be no true leading. Listening takes lots of focus, energy, and practice. It also requires that leaders are curious and empathetic.
Active and full listening requires us to be curious. What is the experience of the other person? What might be a barrier to this person’s full engagement and high performance? What is driving their current behavior? What does this person need from me right now?
To actively listen with authentic curiosity requires us to practice empathy. Listening with empathy shuts out our own voices of judgment about the other person. It shuts out our own voices of cynicism or fear about what the person might be saying or how the person might be making us feel. Active and empathetic listening fully acknowledges the presence and the message of the other person. Listening at this level is affirming and empowering.
Leaders who wish to unlock the key to their own success and the success of their teams work hard to be better and better listeners. Everything else builds on this simple fact.