It’s that time of year…when people come together in joy and celebration; reuniting with friends and family that they perhaps haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. The focus is mostly on friends and family on giving gifts and on improving those ever so tenuous and often difficult relationships. Here is a little secret I’d like to share before we get into this blog post…
Your friends and family want your presence, far more than they want your presents…so put away those mobile phones, tablets, computers and screens in general…and offer up your undivided attention; your presence.
Here is a little something to help support you bring love and listening both into the work place and into your homes this festive season, to help it all run brilliantly.
When someone listens to you, fully present to what you are saying, it is a remarkable experience. When that person is absolutely with you, interested in every word, you feel known. You experience being understood and respected.
People get bigger, they expand, when they know they are being listened to; they get present to themselves as a valued person. They feel safer, more confident that they matter. Trust can begin to develop. That is why actively listening is so important to leadership development.
Mastery of leadership requires masterful listening, attuned and in harmony with the speaker. This means stopping the chatter of your mind. Focus on their issues. Be present to them.
There are two aspects of masterful listening in leadership. One is attention, self-awareness. It is receiving information through what we hear with our ears and opening all our other senses.
The attention is on the information coming in: words, impressions, shift in energy, non-verbal messages, concepts.
The second is what we do with our listening. The impact of our actions, based on our listening to the other person. The results of really listening, turned into action.
There are three levels of listening; mastery of each will give you enormous range and capacity to listen and be effective both in your personal and professional relationships..
At this level, attention is on ourselves. Most people operate most of the time from here. We listen to the other person and at the same time focus on what it means for us. At this level, although we appear to be listening, the spotlight is on ourselves; our thoughts, our judgments, our feelings and our conclusions about the other person. Level 1 is important; it informs us about our world and ourselves. Individuals and teams mostly operate here. Leaders need to learn not to operate at this self-absorbed level for any length of time. Listening as a leader starts at level 2.
Here there is a sharp focus on the other person. Attention is concentrated on being present to them, their issues and concerns, their words, their emotions. You notice what they say, how they say it. You notice what they don’t say.
You listen for what they value. You listen for their vision and what gives them energy, where they come alive, where they go flat or withdrawn. You learn to listen to the quiet music behind their words, their deeper beliefs, assumptions and inconsistencies.
You reflect back their concerns, dreams, uncertainties. Like a mirror, you absorb none of the light. What is said is returned with compassion and understanding. You do not offer opinions, solutions or actions, until you sense this would be appropriate. Through this level of listening you are inviting the other to draw on their inner wisdom and move beyond their anxiety and self-doubt. When the timing is right, you co-create solutions with them.
At this level of listening, you are consistently taking opportunities to empower others to find their voice and take responsibility for solutions. They grow in self-confidence and are more willing to risk new ideas.
As a leader learning to listen at this optimum level requires awareness and repetitive practice. The power of gentle silence draws the other out and demonstrates respect for what they are saying. Practise brings mastery. If you complain that others don’t listen to you, it is highly probable that you are not listening to them. Remember, taking time to understand what someone is saying, does not mean that you necessarily agree with them. The perceived power of leadership often means we unintentionally cut others off. Learn how to understand before being understood.
Here you are open to receiving information from everything around you, as if both of you were at the centre of the Universe. Picture a spider’s web, with both of you at the centre; open to any vibration, intuitive sense, deeper connection, spontaneous thought.
At this profound level of listening you gain information that is not directly observable, often beyond the immediate environment. You are able to also detect subtle feelings emanating from the other and reflect these back to them. You are not attached to what you notice. You merely offer to them what you sense. This requires a developed high level of emotional intelligence; a conscious awareness of the power of connectivity and life force.
How often do you consider your level of listening?
This is a valuable question to be with, over time. A great way to improve is to give yourself feedback:
Give yourself a rating from 1-10 for each of levels 2 and 3.
How well are you ‘recovering’ from listening at level 1? Level 1 is always present, so how do you ‘recover’ or ‘get back’ to listening at higher levels?
Only by developing greater self-awareness can you become conscious and notice when you are listening at level 1. Others will notice it. Shift gears and move up a level.
Following through on agreed actions after the activity of listening, is about your integrity as a leader and your reputation for building trust.
This will have a positive effect on all your relationships, both personal and professional…and therefore on the results you produce. And the best part is; it costs nothing.
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