What happens when you listen?

When were you last listened to? I mean really heard. I don’t mean when someone exchanged points of view with you or ideas or argued a point but when someone, a work colleague or a boss really listened.

Being really listened to is when you are fully focused on, when someone hears the words you are saying and understands the feelings behind the words. They appreciate how you feel and can empathise. Listening can be a most powerful management tool. To really hear a person, an employee, or colleague is to be there for them, to fully connect with them and is both healing and helpful.

I think it is Miles Downey, known as the coache’s coach, who says listening is curative. He means that just by hearing someone’s perspective can help them deal with their troubles and solve problems.

The beauty of the simple act of listening is that we do not need to know the answers when people come to us, we just need to say; “Tell me what’s on your mind. “

As a leader, do you have time to listen to your people?

As a consultant I am often called in to provide a training intervention and the first part of it is always asking the potential delegates what’s going on for them. How are they feeling about work, their colleagues, their boss etc?

This consultation phase is really a chance for them to be heard, to get their concerns off their chests and when it comes to the actual training event, most people are already bought in because we took an interest in them.

My wife is a head teacher and has concerned parents coming to her all the time. Often they have ultimatums about removing their children if this or that doesn’t happen or making complaints about teachers or other children and parents. She usually just listens. She hears them. She never gives in to their threats and usually has them on side and more relaxed by the end of the conversation. The simplest model for this is LEAPS;

Listen to the person

Empathise with their position

Ask questions for understanding

Paraphrase what you’ve heard to show you get it

Suggest solutions

I used to teach this very model to the Police as part of their conflict management training. Given 97% of all arrests happen without any use of force, it makes sense the officers are trained to use their communication, not just their fists.

When we listen we learn, we understand, we empathise and we connect. I had a colleague, the drill sergeant at the Police Training Centre I used to work at who, when he caught cadets talking on parade would scream;

“You’ve got 2 ears and 1 mouth sunshine … kindly use them in the right proportions”

What would happen if you started to truly listen to your people?