I loved those famous cell phone commercials featuring two individuals communicating on their phones with one another; with one confused and listening real hard, as the other person is saying over and over, “can you hear me now?”
Watching this scene reminds me of a lot of conversations that I have had in the past with those that were my superiors. As part of the anatomy of a leader, I want to discuss the ears of the leader.
It was funny, as a young manager, when my boss was trying to correct me on an issue. I would always respond, “I hear you.” He would then ask me, “Yes, I know you hear me, but were you listening?”
That has always stuck with me, and I want to pass on a few lessons we can learn about listening.
The Vincent Van Gogh Effect
In 1888, a painter by the name of Vincent Van Gogh cut the bottom part of his ear off while under severe depression. A world class painter painted a self portrait demonstrating his ordeal with his separated ear.
To be a true leader, one must master the art of listening. This can be applied to anyone in any position.
A listening master has a lot of similarities to great artist.
- You must study: Study to be quiet, but may I say to you, take it a step further and study to listen.
- You must practice: Be conscious in your next 10 conversations and practice listening.
- Develop mastery: When you study and practice, you begin to build an amazing art that most individuals will never have. You will stand out among your peers.
Do not cut your ears off. Rather listen with an artistic touch!
The Waitress Effect
“I said, I did not want any onions!” There are two types of waitresses – great ones and those that are terrible. I hate going to a restaurant, and I tell them, “No onions,” and the cook puts those big round onion slices on my burger. There are a few reasons for this that can teach us some valuable lessons on listening.
- Write down notes– When I say no onions, the waitress tries to commit it to memory because she’s a”professional.” It is best to write down notes when your employees, or anyone for that matter, is talking to you.
- Listen with your face– I despise a waitress that is taking your order down, but she’s more interested in the large party down at the other table. Or, she is so consumed with her own issues that she is half listening.
Smile, be friendly.
Make eye contact
Nod your head in agreement
Ask questions like, “What else happened?” Or “Tell me more.”
Then listen with sincerity, and make it a point to to understand.
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. -Stephen R. Covey
The Good Ol’ Boy Effect
Trying to “up” each other is the ultimate sin when it comes to listening.
The good ol’ boys stand around telling their fishing and hunting stories. One of them tells the other, “I caught a 5 lb bass the other day!” And as he proceeds to tell this amazing fishing story, the other person interrupts and begins to top that story.
Have you ever been around those that won’t let you get a word in? With a lot of leaders, there’s no back and forth communication. They do not listen and try to understand you. Instead, they just run you over. Here’s a few tips:
- Do not interrupt. EVER!
- Listen with empathy all the way through, even if you disagree with their point of view.
- Do not be selfish. Let someone else talk once in a while.
We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.
-Zeno of Citium
In closing, do not be that person that volleys back and forth with an onslaught of words to get your point forced into someone’s mind, but rather listen and seek to understand. Then you will find you can direct others and lead with confidence with the respect of others.