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The Leading Edge: What Matters
Volume 1 | Issue 4July 2010
Welcome to Issue # 4 of The Leading Edge, Leadership Development Services' bimonthly e-letter. In the last issue we discussed Trust and why it is important to an organization. This month, we explore listening because we believe that in leadership, listening really matters, especially in building trust.
Listening Matters
Not surprisingly, almost every employee survey identifies listening as one of the essential attributes that people look for in their managers.  Why is listening so highly valued?  And why is it so difficult to do? 
Listening In Action
John, a manager in a large distribution center, filed a grievance against his boss, Patricia.  John felt undermined and disrespected. He told the HR Manager that Patricia constantly micromanaged him and frequently, without explanation, reversed his departmental decisions.  Patricia's lack of support made him feel powerless and humiliated.  

John and Patricia revealed the source of their problem in our coaching conversations.

John told us that Patricia would rattle off orders and due dates during staff meetings, but would never listen to his questions or concerns. He would be forced to act on his understanding of the assignment and, inevitably, Patricia would revise his decisions after she reviewed the end results. She set John up to fail. 

Patricia told us that it felt like John didn't listen. Whenever she presented the big picture and the vision, John's body language and facial expressions loudly communicated that he was not receptive. She knew John wanted to challenge her and she did not want to give him a forum.
The Gift of Listening
Patricia's lack of listening undermined John's sense of purpose and contribution.  He didn't feel he was getting fair treatment and felt ignored at staff meetings. John accused Patricia of poor leadership and unfair management practice. John did not take responsibility for the problem he experienced with Patricia.  He didn't recognize that his filtered listening - critical and faultfinding - blocked his ability to be objective and constructive.  His quick emotional responses kept him from getting a balanced viewpoint.
Patricia believed she was justified in ignoring John in order to protect her team.   She also took little responsibility for the way she treated John; had he not consistently exceeded departmental goals, she would have replaced him long ago.

Patricia and John each had a story about each other that kept them from listening.  As a result, both were paying a significant price. 
The Need for Expression and Recognition
We all need to be heard.  When others listen to us, we feel accepted and respected.   When they don't, it feels like rejection, disrespect and disregard. No wonder employees value leaders who listen!
How good a listener are you?

Compare what good listeners do with with what poor listeners do. 
What Good Listeners Do: 
  • Listen for what they can learn
  • Listen without judgement
  • Look objectively for areas of agreement and areas of disagreement
  • Filter out distractions
  • Concentrate more on substance than style
  • Set aside emotion and not take it personally
  • Listen without interupting
What Poor Listeners Do:
  • Listen until they can find a way to interject their own thoughts
  • Listen to find what's wrong
  • Look for areas of disagreement and then disregard the rest
  • Let distractions get in the way
  • Let style keep them from getting the substance
  • Get caught up in the emotion - take it personally
  • Interrupt
Change Your Listening Habits
Try these 10 better listening tips.  If you monitor your results daily for 21 days, you will find that your listening habits have changed for the better.
  1. Listen for facts.
  2. Listen for feelings like confusion, disappointment, and frustration.
  3. Listen for attitudes and values.
  4. Be aware of your own attitudes, and values.
  5. Be aware of your own emotional response to what is said, and to the sender.
  6. Listen for the basic idea or main point.
  7. Listen for what is really meant versus what is said.
  8. Pay attention, concentrate.
  9. Do not interrupt unless necessary; don't let others interrupt.
  10. Use body language, eye contact and facial expression to demonstrate active listening.
Something to Think About
Identify someone who is a good listener and observe them. What attributes would you use to describe them?  What is it they do that makes them so effective? Think about those attributes and behaviors and make a conscious effort to emulate them.
Digging Deeper:
Three Things You Can Do IMageThe Lost Art of Listening, Second Edition: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships - (Guilford Family Therapy) written by Michael P. Nichols PhD

 Is Listening an Endangered Skill? - Harvard Business Review Blog Topic written by Bronwyn Fryer

Look Like You're Listening - Harvard Business Review Blog Topic written by Marshall Goldsmith
What's Coming In September:
Feedback Matters  
  1. Top Ten Feedback Tips 
  2. Making 360's Work For You 
  3. Hard Feedback is Tough! 
  4. When You Are Not Getting The Feedback You Need
Chicago SkylineThe Center for Mentoring Excellence is offering a full day workshop focused on helping you raise the bar on your mentoring performance. Don't miss this opportunity to learn with authors Dr. Lois Zachary and Lory Fischler as they take you through a dynamic interactive process to guide your thinking and development as a mentoring partner. Click here for more information  
About Leadership Development Services

We help individuals and organizations achieve excellence through leadership development. To do this, we provide customized training, facilitation, consultation, and coaching services (on-site and virtual) that improve the quality of leadership and mentoring. We partner with clients to create sustainable mentoring support structures and processes and roadmaps for creating a mentoring culture. We offer innovative and comprehensive leadership development programs to enhance individual and organizational learning and accountability. Our long-standing relationships with clients around the world are  testimony to our ability to facilitate results that matter. 

In This Issue
Listening Matters
Listening In Action
The Gift of Listening
The Need for Expression and Recognition
Change Your Listening Habits
Something to Think About
Digging Deeper
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Check back with our blog every Wednesday for these upcoming topics
Top Ten Feedback Tips
Making 360's Work For You
Hard Feedback Is Tough
When You Are Not Getting the Feedback You Need