I once had a boss who you called me into his office to review our joint projects and share updates about our deadlines. I would sit down across from him in one of two chairs and look forward to our meeting. The exchange of ideas would begin evenly with each of us presenting, yet something always seemed to get in the way of us having a focused discussion. He would inevitably answer a phone call or respond to an email, just to get it out of the way. His chair would face in different directions as he continued to talk or do something simultaneous to our dialogue. Sure he was a busy person, but so was I. I began to dread these meetings because I never felt listened to or respected for my time or contributions. Has this ever happened to you? Do you set up meetings or phone calls and continue to participate in other tasks at the same time? Do you lead by listening with respect?
In a NY Times interview this week, Adam Bryant spoke with Avinoam Nowogrodski, CEO of Clarizen about his early leadership lessons. A vice president in one of his earlier jobs told Nowogrodski: “Listen, Avinoam, you’re very smart, very capable but you have one issue: You are not listening.” After that honest feedback, Nowogrodski learned to listen and tried to understand what other people are trying to say.
How can we show others that we are listening with respect?
Be committed to active listening
We need to purposely connect in a conversation. Everyone is strapped for time but that doesn’t mean we can’t strategically listen. If you are in a face-to-face conversation, use more than your ears to listen. If you are on the phone, listen for tone and emotion. Ask yourself: What is the person really talking about and trying to say? Do I understand clearly or do I need to ask some questions to get a better feel for what is being shared?
Avoid jumping to conclusions
This is a tough one because we often think we know what someone is about to say and may even want to complete their sentence midstream. What I consciously do is remind myself to just listen and not interrupt and then I won’t make a fool of myself by assuming I already know what they want to say.
Honor the speaker
When leaders listen with respect and focus completely on the speaker they are empowering the other person to feel comfortable with sharing their ideas and perspective. If another is in a dialogue with us, presenting what is important to them, we owe them our full attention. Even if you disagree, be respectful by listening to their full presentation and then ignite a positive and open dialogue.
How do you listen with respect? How do you lead and empower others to share their points of view?