Listening is a key skill for anyone that wants to advance their career, yet how much time do you spend trying to hone this skill? If you do not work on enhancing this skill you are missing a real opportunity. In areas where executives need to make important decisions, or if you are involved in negotiations this article is directly on point for you. The focus here is on being a better listener to help you hone this important skill and your collaboration skills with others. This is what leadership is all about.
Be a better listener
You build trust with others when you are a better listener, and trust enhances the probability of greater collaboration. Greater collaboration leads to enhanced relationships, better use of resources, better results, and greater profitability.
Trust fuels innovation, creativity, and improved performance.
Trust also help you mitigate unforeseen drawbacks, by allowing the team to focus on the area of concern and take appropriate actions timely.
Ask good questions
It is well established that good leadership is about asking good questions. What does that mean? Asking good questions is about asking the right questions and asking them in a way that is optimal to your goals. Einstein used to be observed walking across campus at Princeton asking himself aloud, “what else haven’t I asked?’ Think about this. What else haven’t you asked?
When you ask questions, you improve your own emotional intelligence.
You become more aware of things you did not know. This in tern makes you a better questioner and the circle continues with your improvement. When you ask the right question, you can help move your counterpart in a given direction without telling the other party what you want them to do. Having a mindset to be helpful, kind, considerate, and open while at the same time questioning can make all the difference. Think of the words, the tone, the facial expressions, and body language with the question you are asking.
Frame the question to have your counterpart agree or at least see the concern from a different direction.
The sequence of questions, the timing of questions, and deciding how much information to share all play a role in you being a better listener and leader. Ask questions the other party would like to answer. You need to ask more questions. Be inquisitive. Others enjoy answering things they care about.
Be careful not to be overconfident in what you think you know. You do not know what you do not know. The only way to find out is to ask questions. You need to realize how beneficial it is to be asking questions. Asking questions benefits you with you can learn and builds a more positive impression on the other party. Asking a lot of questions builds bonding with the other party.
Follow up questions
Once you ask your question have good follow up questions. While the other person is answering the first question begin to think of what you may want to ask next. Often this signals to the other party that you are truly listening and trying to understand. Make sure not to make it an inquisition with a host of yes or no type questions. Instead ask open ended questions. Why? First, this allows the other person to elaborate and second, it gives you more time to think about additional follow up questions.
Sometime asking tougher questions can open the other party up as you ask less threatening questions later. This can build a relationship in a negotiation. When you ask questions in a casual way this too tends to open things up and make the other person more forthcoming.
Research has also shown that people tend to like others that ask more questions of them.
Typically, those asking questions tend to offer less about themselves. However, not sharing tends to make the questioning person look evasive. It is more like a dance than a solo, so you should offer some personal insights too.
When you answer questions be sensitive as to how much you offer and how you long you speak. Give the other party more time to speak. There is line between privacy and transparency. People generally err on the side of being too private. To avoid misunderstandings, you should consider how much information to offer prior to the interaction. Here is a great source from the Harvard Business Review on this topic.
Listening is one of the key elements of The Collaboration Effect. Now let us explore the application of listening with collaboration.
The Collaboration Effect© starts with building connecting relationships with others as a starting point. The second element of the collaboration effect is listening actively. Once a person has been listened to, they are more apt to listen to you. That brings up the third element of educating judiciously with them with what you want to say. However, educating the other party is best when you educate the other party the way they want to be educated. If you have built your connecting relationship with the other party, and actively listened to them, then you will be able to determine how best to educate the other party.
Be careful here. You know a lot and you want to share a lot. Pause. Reflect on what you have learned. Know what you want. Ask for it. Give the other party three reasons why this is beneficial for them. Then listen. This simple model stems from John Baker’s book The Asking Formula. Since learning this process some three years ago, I have found this be exceptionally useful. You should speak far less than the other party. Outstanding sales people have known this for years. Now you can put this in action. This commentary is not telling you how to think. Rather this commentary is telling you how to think so that you can listen better and have better collaboration going forward. Let me know what you think. I am open to your ideas and experiences too.
About the author
Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]