We humans are funny. We think listening is this blasé natural thing.
Except . . . I’ve noticed that when members of our Academy for Compassionate Leadership specifically practice listening skills with their teams, they report all sorts of dramatic outcomes like:
- Staff solving problems for themselves. No more line-ups outside the boss’s door!
- Team members asking more questions and taking action on negative feedback, signals of feeling Psychological Safety.
Listening = better business results.
I think the real story here is how listening builds what Jane Dutton, PhD and cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizations, calls High Quality Connections: positivity-charged connections that make both listeners and speakers feel happier.
Surprisingly, the benefits go beyond the two people in conversation.
[Note: If you’re still not convinced, here’s 68 more reasons why listening makes a difference.]
Ok. So listening is good. We can all get that.
But then . . .
Why can it seem like such a revolutionary act?
Sorting out the Static.
Turns out there’s lots of reasons genuine listening (versus smiling and nodding while thinking about what you want to say or what’s for dinner tonight) is kinda rare. Just a few:
- Listening isn’t an instinctive priority for most of us. We talk about great speakers, not great listeners.
- At least in the short term, talking about ourselves feels better than listening to others. Yes, we are our favourite topic.
- Listening is even less likely when we feel so strongly about something that we spout our opinion along with a lot of emotion.
- Fixing things gives us a dopamine hit. Without that reward, supporting others in coming up with their own solutions feels so hard and takes so long (insert whiny voice).
- We’re distracted. A 2010 study found our minds wander 47 percent of our waking hours.
Um, 13 social media-filled years later, I’m thinking that number is a lot bigger.
In these divided times, we often don’t want to hear others’ views.
So, like eating broccoli or getting a good night’s sleep . . .
Listening and engaging in High Quality Connections, though good for us in the long run,
isn’t so easy in the moment.
Making Dialogue Meaningful.
Fortunately, being a good listener doesn’t require extraordinary talent. In fact, you can intentionally cultivate real dialogue (versus taking turns monologuing) with your existing listening skills.
Here’s a few research-backed ideas from our Leadership Academy to help you do that.
* Mindfulness matters. Take a breath. Put your story on hold for a minute. Then focus your attention over there – on the other person.
* Be curious. Listen to learn, not judge. As organizational psychologist Adam Grant observes:
Many communicators try to make themselves look smart.
Great listeners are more interested in making their audiences feel smart.
* Empathy is at the core of effective listening. Care about the other person and what they’re talking about.
* Be willing to shift your thinking. Try to get into their head and understand their world.
* Acknowledge what they’re saying and look for common ground. No, you don’t have to agree. Just sincerely validate their point of view.
Question: Is it easy to take these actions in the moment when your to-do list is long and the hours are short?
Well no. And . . . you are capable of doing them.
So yes, this is yet another example of why you make the big bucks. 🙂
The Truth(s) of the Matter.
Truth#1: Asking questions and listening to responses requires more time, intention and attention than criticizing, tuning out or just dumping advice on the other person.
Truth#2: Listening is more likely to get you the results you want – in less time overall.
Why? Because High Quality Connections foster vitality and happiness for all.
We feel less anxious and defensive.
It contributes to a workplace that’s a pleasure to be a part of, and where good things happen.
Can you hear them now? I’m thinking Yup. Yes You Can.
Especially for Leaders & Teams in Seniors Care.
People have a choice of where they can work.
Creating an environment that has them want to come to work at your building, to work on your team, do a good job, collaborate with others, grow . . . it’s a big part of your job.
Except sometimes fitting that in with the umpteen other items on your to-do list doesn’t feel so easy. Listening is a low cost/high impact way to make that difference.
Here’s the thing. You already listen with plenty of heart and attention lots of times during your day – when you’re engaging with a resident, talking with a family member who’s struggling – you get the idea.
All we’re talking about is being a little more intentional. Experiment with strategies to help make listening a more consistent leadership tool you draw on – whether it’s putting it on your calendar, sending a reminder on your phone, or using it with specific people or in specific circumstances (i.e. daily huddles or when you visit the break room).
And yes, members of our Seniors Care Leadership Academy tell us all sorts of wonderful things happen when they do this, including employees showing up for weekend shifts (versus calling out). Who knew?!