Leader and The Body Part
To become a great leader, you should use the right body part in the right way. When it comes to leadership, not all body parts are created equal. Some are more powerful than others!
Most people maintain an almost grotesque imbalance in the use of their mouth vs ears, in the emphasis on speaking vs listening. Speaking seems to dominate. One reason is that everyone likes to listen to their voice. Another is the opportunity for self-expression, to say what we think, what we like and what we think others should like!
There’s nothing wrong in self-expression, in using your mouth. But it must be balanced with something more important, something that will actually bring greater results to you as a leader: listening. You need to use your ears as much as, if not more than, you use your mouth.
Why Active Listening Will Fail
I once read a comic where a husband asks his wife “how can you say that I am not listening to you? Don’t you see me leaning towards you, nodding my head often, keeping eye contact, and even rephrasing back what you say?” Active listening, it seems does not always work!
Active listening techniques will not work without the right intention, presence and an open mind. Bereft of these, it will only make you appear phony, as the husband in the cartoon discovered.
Hearing Vs Listening
We cannot close our ears. So, aren’t we listening all the time? No. There is a different between mere hearing and listening. Hearing indicates only the physical interaction of the sound waves, ear and the brain. It can be passive. Listening on the other hand is an active process of trying to understand what is being said. You can hear without listening.
On reading this, you might think ‘active listening’ is the answer. Active listening has become a buzz word, a promise for quick fix, another ridiculous self-help promise to “influence people in 60 seconds or less!”
“Leaders use their ears differently. They back their ears up with their heart and mind.”
Listening is not about a few techniques. It is about intention, about presence, about keeping an open minded.
It is possible to pretend to be listening while you are preparing for what to say next. This is a common phenomena most of us experience at some point or other. To avoid this trap, start with the right intention. Do you desire, really, deeply want to understand the other person? Do you care about him or her? Once you establish this, your energies will be automatically focused where they belong: towards the other person.
Sometimes our mind is 100 feet away from our body! When you are not present, you are there physically, thinking you are paying attention. But you are preoccupied with something else. At best, you are going through the motions.
“You may not realize it, but others can feel your lack of presence.”
When you are present, on the other hand, you are fully in the moment, immersed, without the constant stream of thoughts and distractions going through your mind. Think of a time you were with your child or someone you really care. That is what presence feels like.
Having an open mind is to be receptive to other ideas. It is to give up preconceived and self-baked theories. If you are open minded, you are curious. You ask open ended questions to invite opinions and ideas. You genuinely appreciate others’ views. You may not always agree to what others say. But you respect their opinions and consider them in light of the discussions.
Become A Better Leader
In summary, use your ears more than you use your mouth. Instead of relying on some mechanical script for active listening, begin with an intention to listen, ensure your presence and keep an open mind. If you do this, you will be better leader than you are today.