“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. Leaders who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” – Anonymous
Listening is a skill…and for most of us, it is underdeveloped. When done well, listening is an active event, which leads to a greater understanding of your people, your process and your potential. When done poorly, listening is a reductive exercise where information and data is cherry picked based on our previous experience, beliefs and biases. In our Coaching Camp, we teach leaders the importance of listening deeply as a critical step in making an emotional connection with team members. When a leader develops his / her ability to stay in the moment, they set the stage for a productive partnership where they can inspire team members to engage in continuous improvement and challenge them to grow.
The Japanese have an expression, “ichi go, ichi ei.” Loosely translated, it means “one time, one meeting” and beautifully demonstrates the concept of listening deeply. When two people meet in a traditional tea house, they are not allowed to discuss any topic other than their immediate surroundings and the elements of the tea ceremony (the tea, the house, the atmosphere, etc.) The intent is to develop one’s ability to focus fully on the moment and not be distracted by anything else. It is a discipline in “being present,” and allows the participants to learn to not only listen to what is being said, but more importantly, what is being communicated.
What effect can listening deeply and being present have on your results?
Risk van Baaren and his colleagues at the University of Nijmegen designed a simple experiment that demonstrated the power of listening deeply and connecting. The team set up an experiment in a restaurant and asked a waitress to help them. After seating the customers, she was instructed to take their order in one of two ways. 50% of the time she was to listen politely and then use positive phrases such as “okay” and “coming right up.” The other 50% of the time, she was asked to repeat the order back to the customers. The effect of demonstrating she had listened and understood their desires by repeating the customers words back to them was significant. The customers who had heard their own words repeated left tips that were 70 % larger than those left by the other group.
As team members we all long to feel as if we add value to our organization and that our contribution is recognized by those who lead us. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make each person feel valuable by removing roadblocks, making the best use of their abilities and listening deeply. When people feel valuable they create a connection with the organization, each other and those who lead them. Only when an emotional connection has been made, can you engage your team fully in the process of change and challenge them to reach their potential.