The Importance of Listening
Listen to learn, understand and appreciate different perspectives to improve in everything you do.
We all know people who have to be the center of attention and even in larger groups will still manage to take up a very high percentage of the air time. Some are simply strong extroverts, some ego driven and many are extremely successful and good at what they do, however most of these individuals are prevented from going further because they fail to appreciate the importance of listening.
I remember early in my career, my perception of leadership was very different from the way I think today. I believed that leaders should define the path forward, detail the strategy and govern the execution. Although I managed to progress my career with this mindset, I am certain that my progress would have been significantly constrained had my thinking not evolved to where it is today.
The lightbulb moment came at business management training course. Each attendee was given a task to lead. I was taken aside and given instructions whereby my team would be blindfolded, I was shown a course from point A to point B before also being blindfolded. My task was to get everybody from point A to point B. I immediately formulated a strategy, detailed this to the team and we attempted to complete the task in the time allotted. 4 of the 10 individuals managed to get to point B, which I viewed as a failure. During the feedback session, the instructor asked how I handled the task and where I wont wrong. He asked what other members of the team had contributed to the strategy or execution. He was very interested in the fact that I hadn't obtained any input from others while formulating the strategy or during the execution. He highlighted that I had access to an extremely knowledgeable, diverse and experienced team but yet I had not even considered tapping in to this. The leader asked the team how we could have approached the task and everybody had valuable input on how we could have done better - there is no doubt, had I simply asked and listened we would have completed the task successfully.
If you are talking you're not learning. Being able to present your ideas and strategies confidently both on a one on one and also to larger teams is an extremally important skill, there is no doubt about this. However, I have listening on an equal level of importance, from a learning, understanding and emotional intelligence perspective.
It's very important to highlight that when I say listen, I mean really listen with intent to understand. This is completely different to simply allowing somebody else to speak. You cant simply allow somebody else to speak while you go over your points in your head waiting for the next opportunity to take over the conversation - sit back and give your full attention to others with the sole purpose of understanding what they are telling you.
Its good to have strong beliefs and opinions but perspective can change everything. I always try to understand what sits behind others which differing opinions from myself and very often find myself altering my original prospective as a result. Listening allows you have a more rounded understanding and perspective which ultimately results in a far better decision making process.
Emotional intelligence, understanding your own emotions is valuable, but understanding others is extremely powerful. Listening to read individuals, understand them and ultimately appreciating the input is a very useful tool.
Talk less and listen more you will learn more, understand different perspectives and ultimately become better in everything you do.