Are You Listening?

An essential part of leadership and managing your direct reports is intentional listening. When you listen carefully to your people, you…

  • Learn about the person
  • Build trust with the person
  • Understand more about the content/issue/circumstance
  • Position yourself to collaborate and problem solve
  • Ask better questions that lead to uncovering the real problem
  • Respond instead of react 
  • Realize you might be wrong

These are just some of the advantages of intentional listening. 

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, speaks about various types of approaches to communication in his conversation with Dan Harris on The Ten Percent Happier Podcast. Grant describes the preacher, the politician, the prosecutor, and the scientist. He defines the preacher mode as wanting to persuade because we have already found the truth, the politician is campaigning for approval, the prosecutor mode is about proving the other person wrong and the scientist has a curious approach and wants to learn. 

Here are the two modes I have entered into as a leader:

  • ‘Preaching’: If you fall into this mode, you may find yourself speaking more than listening. This is when we have a certain point that we are determined to make and we want to convince someone or bring them over to think the way we do. Our intention is not actually to listen and learn but rather to sway or change someone’s mind. 
  • ‘The Fixer’: If you immediately launch into problem-solving, you may be in ‘fixing’ mode. It’s hard to listen to the problem when your mind is focused on the solution. This may seem more time efficient but ultimately, you put forward your agenda rather than listening.

It is often our instinct as leaders to jump into the preaching and fixing modes. We may feel pressed for time and pressured to move on to the next issue, especially as we navigate all the issues of this pandemic. Intentional listening is time well spent.

Be curious. Be humble. Create an intention of wanting to learn and understand. When you listen deeply and intentionally, the impacts are boundless.