Listen to Learn – Harder Than You Think

During a recent client coaching session about how to increase engagement between manager and team members, my client stated, “All I need to do is listen more before giving advice or solutions.” He believed this would increase 2-way communication and team involvement. I agreed.

The skill of listening seems simple and is believed to develop naturally. But how many individuals truly listen to learn and understand before giving their thoughts and suggestions? They are few and far between.

There have been many instances when I felt unheard and misunderstood. For example, a co-worker I was speaking with interrupted me to comment on the topic before they had clear understanding. I was frustrated and said, “You didn’t let me finish and you are not understanding me!” And usually at this point, I just want to walk away. Hasn’t this happened to you?

I hate to admit I’ve been at fault for not fully listening. This usually happens when I am under a deadline, sitting in front of the computer with emails catching my eye, or trying to formulate my own comments to respond.

Listening is a top skill for coaches.  It is a discipline that coaches must cultivate with their clients.  Coaches listen to every spoken word, unspoken word, and nuances in the conversation. As a result, clients feel heard and increase their interactions with their coaches. An environment is created that fosters trust, sharing of ideas, and an openness to explore a variety of perspectives and solutions.

My client recognized the benefits of fine-tuning his listening skills with his direct reports.  By doing so, he will increase the effectiveness of his conversations by intently listening, being curious, and asking questions before giving advice/solutions. He is committed to the behavior change to have a greater impact as a manager.

Listening skills are needed in every profession and in daily interactions with others. By listening intently in personal and professional conversations, there will be a greater positive effect on the outcome and on each person.

If you feel you could be a better listener, ask yourself first: What gets in my way of listening intently and being curious? Second, what am I losing by not changing how I listen?

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