Are You Really Listening?

I am reflecting on a meeting I facilitated last week with three C-Suite Executives. I am appreciating the experience because I am reminded of the importance of listening. My meeting was at a high growth, very successful technology company. At this company, change is constant as is a heavy workload. Listening is one of the most important skills that a leader can use to bring efficiency to their communication. It is also one of the most desired by employees.  Everyone wants to be heard and listened to.

Most of us have an “unconscious listening filter” that we use to attempt to expedite conversations and by using this filter, we add static to communication. We aren’t really listening so we are counter-productive, lose connection with others, and block innovation.

For example, in my meeting last week, each executive had a listening filter. One was “listening to fix” and he kept presenting solutions prematurely. Another was “listening to control” by trying to direct the conversation to her most important topic. The third individual was “listening to avoid conflict” by offering positive comments to anything that was said. I found myself sliding into my own filter of “listening to fix” and shifted into my practice of stating only one sentence and asking a question for clarity.

I revealed to the small group that I was drifting into my filter of “listening to fix”. They became curious and realized that they were doing the same, not really listening to each other. We all smiled at our awareness, immediately connected, and created possibilities for innovative solutions. We were having more fun.

I can remember facilitating another group around listening skills and they all said “it’s so hard to try not to help and fix”. During my days in leadership, I can remember a colleague saying to me “I don’t want you to do anything, I just want you to listen to me”. I thought “wow, nothing to do here but listen!” This feedback was crucial to me.

By dropping our listening filters and by listening for accuracy, with empathy, and to promote mutual creativity, we are the source of authenticity in any situation. I continue to enjoy the big “aha” in executives as they raise their awareness around listening.

Are you REALLY listening?