In our previous One-Minute Coaching™, we discussed how executives frequently overlook and undervalue the skill of listening. In the next 60 seconds, you will learn how to strengthen this critical ability. Ready? Set. Go!
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How can executives become better listeners? Bernard T. Ferrari suggests four simple steps in “Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All”:
- Show respect.
- Keep quiet.
- Challenge assumptions.
- Maintain focus.
That sounds easy, but most executives fail to complete one or more of these steps. The result is that they are not “power listening” and therefore miss critical information, make suboptimal decisions, and/or strain relationships.
I have seen these shortcomings time and time again in my executive coaching engagements. Many leaders show respect with their choice of words, but not through keeping quiet and letting the other person say their piece. Others will challenge assumptions and ask tough questions of their conversation partner, then barrel forward with their own perspectives rather than maintaining focus on what the other person is trying to communicate.
We’ll look at the first two steps today, then continue with the remaining steps in next week’s One-Minute Coaching™.
1. Show Respect
Each of our direct reports usually has their job for a reason: they know how to do it! They can provide valuable information if given a chance to focus and communicate their thoughts.
A power listener doesn’t speak over the other person or jump to conclusions and solutions. Instead, they help the other person to identify important points and then see them from a new perspective through coaching conversations. Coaching conversations do all of the following:
- Respect the other’s ability to solve problems on their own.
- Draw out information that would otherwise stay hidden.
- Help both you and the person you are listening to arrive at better decisions.
Note that being respectful does not mean you cannot challenge the other person. Running a business means asking hard questions. The goal is to ensure information and ideas flow freely and openly.
2. Keep Quiet
Don’t be an obstacle to your own ability to listen. Stay quiet. Spend 70% to 80% of your time listening, and use the remaining 20% to 30% for asking critical questions.
How many times have you spoken with someone who barely acknowledged that you had said something, then moved on to their own ideas? It’s impossible to contribute when the other person is focused on speaking rather than listening. Don’t be that person. By keeping quiet, you allow your conversation partner to contribute.
- Think of times when you were truly listened to and respected. How did you feel?
- What about the times when you felt disrespected by someone who would not be quiet and listen?
- How much more were you able to accomplish when the other person listened quietly and respectfully?
- How can you engage more quietly and respectfully in your own conversations?
If you need to become a better listener, there are several things you can do:
- Practice asking more questions.
- Paraphrase what you are hearing; feed this back to the other person and ask for confirmation.
- Read a book on active listening.
- Have some sessions with an executive coach.
An executive coach can serve as a safe sounding board and help you develop your listening skills. And, as a way of saying thank you for reading this, we will provide you a complimentary set of executive coaching sessions to work on this or any other area where you want to improve.
If you are a genuine CEO or senior executive, click the button below to schedule your first complimentary executive coaching session.
Continue improving your listening skills in “4 Steps to Power Listening, Part 2.”