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Hear, Hear!

Optimize Blog - March 28, 2016 - 0 comments

There’s an old saying that with two ears and one mouth, we should be doing twice the amount of listening as we do talking and here at Zeitgeist we subscribe to this as a leadership philosophy. In fact we think that two to one is a poor ratio and perhaps it should be at least five to one. Too often we see leaders much more comfortable talking than listening and often to the detriment of the business.
The art of listening is the best route to informing the judgments we need to make. The ability to listen and discern is the key to building a base of knowledge that generates fresh insights and ideas. To be a great listener there are a few things that need to happen and can only happen through practice.
First, seeking information from people at all levels within the business is the only way to realistically ensure that good decisions can be made at the top. Letting everyone around you know that you consider each of them to have something to contribute shows respect for them and will create an environment where good ideas are routinely generated within the organization.
Being respectful doesn’t mean that we avoid asking tough questions, good listeners routinely ask good questions to uncover the information they need to help make better decisions. The goal is ensuring the free and open flow of information and ideas.
Secondly, at the beginning of this article we suggested a five to one ratio of listening to speaking as a minimum and this is far easier said than done because as leaders we are naturally inclined to speak our minds. We often find ourselves falling into the trap of thinking that we are expected to have all the answers. But the fact is that you can’t listen if you’re too busy talking. Besides, we’ve all spent time with bad listeners who treat conversations as opportunities to broadcast their own status or ideas, or who spend more time formulating their next response than listening to the other person. Infuriating isn’t it?
However, we should recognize that it’s certainly not easy to suppress our impulse to speak, but with patience and practice you can learn to control the urge and improve the quality and effectiveness of your conversations by speaking and contributing at the right time. As you improve your ability to stay quiet, you’ll probably begin to use silence more effectively.
Finally good listeners seek first to understand and challenge the assumptions that lie below the surface of every conversation. Through effective listening and questioning we can uncover what is important and what we need to know to make a smart choice.
Sadly, too often as leaders we act as if we know it all and subsequently remain closed to anything that undermines our beliefs. It takes real effort for us to become better listeners and to force ourselves to reconsider our assumptions based on new information. It is critical though that we constantly evaluate what we know, don’t know, and can’t know.
In summary we suggest that leaders that are good listeners will tend to make better decisions, based on better-informed judgments, than poor listeners will. By showing respect to those we interact with, remaining quiet so they can speak, and actively opening ourselves up to facts that undermine our beliefs, we can all better master this valuable skill and become more effective leaders as a result…..

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