In a short piece, Daniel Goleman(see Curing the Common Cold of Leadership: Poor Listening) reminds us again of the importance of listening as a key leadership skill. Neuroscience tells us that our brain is super proficient at mastering procedures like brushing our teeth or sending a text. It stores these “how to” processes in the unconscious part of our brains so that we don’t have to think about them. This works very well for habits that we don’t want to expend brain energy on.
It doesn’t work so well when we’ve developed a habit like “not listening” out of a desire for extreme efficiency in our back to back meeting worlds. Yet we are told repeatedly that listening is the skill that leaders most fall down in and that they need to cultivate the most for success.
So, how do we begin to practice a new listening habit? Goleman says, “The key is being mindful of those moments in your day when you have a naturally occurring opportunity to practice good listening. “
When do you have listening pockets in your day when you can practice listening? Here are three that come to mind:
- When walking between meetings or between buildings.
- During the first few minutes of a meeting, resist the temptation to check email. Put your devices down and listen to the room and the people in it.
- In conversation, wait, JUST WAIT, five seconds more before speaking.
Turn listening into a treasure hunt. What are you noticing in your listening? What is your listening telling you?
Challenge yourself to listen to your interior as well as your exterior environment. Oh, but that’s advanced listening. That’s listening for over achievers, which I know none of you are. We’ll talk about that in a later post….. stay tuned! And Happy Listening!