We write and speak frequently on the importance of being a good listener. But most of our content is usually focused on listening tactics — how to listen better. But today I want to write about why it is so important to listen well.
Listening, at its most basic level, is essentially a commitment to two-way communication. If I refuse to listen, then I am only interested in communication in a single direction — from me to you. But that kind of communication is selfish and short-sighted.
We’ve been doing a lot of writing and speaking lately about the challenges of 21st century communication and leadership. And the common denominator of these challenges is that no one really listens to anyone anymore. Everyone is so obsessed with being heard, that no one takes the time to hear!
As I often do, I relate this business challenge to the relationship I have with our young daughter. She asks a million questions, every day, and everything we ask her to do is greeted with questions as to why. Emily and I made a pact with each other when both our kids were born that we would always try to be patient with them, and that we would always encourage them to ask questions and have a vibrant mind. So far, so good. But encouraging questions all the time is exhausting! There are many times I wish that she would stop asking questions and just do what we ask her to do. That might feel good in the short term, but it won’t pay off long term. Why? Because we don’t want a child who just shuts up and does what she is told. We want her to think, to seek to understand, to be alive every moment of every day.
And that, at its essence, is why listening to colleagues and being committed to two-way communication is so important. Do you want people who just do what you tell them to do? Or do you want people who think for themselves, and have the confidence to ask questions and make decisions? I think the answer, for most of us anyway, is the latter.
Make long-term investments in your people and your organization. Create an organization where people are encouraged to think, discuss, debate, and yes, disagree. And to create this kind of an organization, we must set a tone for two-way conversation, which by definition, means we have to know how to speak and how to listen.
Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?
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