Opening your eyes and ears is a lot harder than opening your mouth, but its effects are profound. Executive or employee, small business or large, I’ll bet you’re constantly worrying about setting expectations, reiterating key messages related to your company’s goals, offering an opinion on all the things you feel you should, making sure the right people know what you’ve done… I’m exhausted just thinking about all the talking you need to do! You could be losing out on important learning and engagement of people.
Here’s your big break for the week: for experimental purposes, try not talking and just listen with the goal of learning. And beware that pesky voice in your head that is always preparing a response while someone is talking. Tell it you’re giving it the week off!
Here are some listening ideas to get you started:
- Sit down with your A players and ask them what they think. “What else could we be doing to improve? What do you think about our culture? What one thing would you like to be doing that you’re not? What keeps you up at night?” Sky is the limit with your most smart, engaged people — ask them what you want to know.
- You’re probably going through a big change. Randomly ask someone how they think that change is going and how it’s affecting her (or his) job. What you’ll glean is what she might be afraid of. Don’t tell her not to worry. Just keep listening and empathizing.
- Try not talking in a meeting, even if you’re leading it. Instead, “listen” to nonverbals: watch for wavering attention, facial expressions, tension, topics where people talked over one another, or conversely you heard “crickets,” witnessed eye-rolling, smiles, side chatting, etc. You’ll be amazed what you learn about a topic watching these dynamics. It’s more interesting, too.
When I tried listening more, I received feedback that I was more approachable. I was also surprised how different my perception was of people’s concerns from what they really were. Quite humbling, indeed.
That’s just a start, I’m sure you’ll find many more ways to listen. I’d love to hear how it goes, and what you found out listening this week!