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But I Told You - The Importance of Listening

Have you ever received a large office supply order or have staff run with a project that you did not approve. You start inquiring around the office who approved that order or project only to discover that the answer is YOU? You think back and cannot remember approving?
Do you consistently hear people say, "But I Told You?" and do not remember? Listening is a key trait of any successful leader. When you develop your key listening skills, you win both in the office and at home. In John C. Maxell's book, "Leadership Gold", John outlines key principles that occur when you take the time to develop your listening skills:

You Understand People
When you listen to someone, you are essentially taking the time to understand them. Effective leaders understand the characteristics of their Team, but more importantly understand each Team Member's hopes, dreams and goals. As a Leader, when you fully understand your employee, you can support them in an effective manner by knowing where to place them and what projects to delegate to ensure success for the Team Member, but also for the Team and ultimately you as the Leader.

You Learn From The Person Who Is Speaking
Talk Show Host Larry King once said, "I remind myself every morning; nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening." When we take the time to remove the distractions from our life and listen to our Team Members fully, your mind becomes clear and allows you the opportunity to listen and learn. Leadership is not about knowing it all.

You Can Keep Problems From Escalating
When life gets busy, we tend to multi-task, which is not the best for active listening. When this happens, you miss the small details of identifying small problems that can lead to larger problems. If you focus and listen, you can fix many small problems before they become larger problems. A Cherokee proverb states, " Listen to the whispers and you won't have to hear the screams."

You Establish Trust With The Person Who Is Speaking
Brian Tracy states, " Listening builds trust, the foundation of all lasting relationships." One cannot lead without trust first. A Team buys into the person who the leader is first and then their vision. If you do not have their trust, you will not receive the buy-in on the vision, which will result in a lack of success.

Your Organization Both At Work And At Home Improves
Jim Rohn states it best, " One of the greatest gifts you can give anyone is the gift of attention." While one can be a leader without being a listener, one cannot be a good leader without being a listener.

We live in a world where we are pulled in a thousand different directions at the same time. Listening has been pushed off to the side due to this. Break the cycle. When a Team Member comes to speak with you give them your attention and focus. I always tried (not always successful - but points for trying) to do the following:
  • Place cell phone in my purse or somewhere I could not see it and place on silent
  • Place office phone on Do Not Disturb
  • Turn email off - I am addicted to email. If I do not do this, I constantly want to check my email while the person is speaking.
  • Close the door to avoid other Team Members from interrupting
  • Allow Team Member to fully speak before replying and keep eye contact throughout the conversation.
Take the time and will be amazed at what you learn and hear.

PS - these tips are great for the home as well!