There is a wonderful Christmas hymn titled “Do You Hear What I Hear?” that I have loved since I was young. The hymn reminds us that, if we listen closely, we can hear a song in the trees announcing the birth of the Christ child. I thought of that hymn this week as I considered my New Year’s resolutions. The central message might be modified this way – listen and you will find treasures.
I have found that the business leaders I have admired the most throughout my career are the ones who seem to have all the time in the world for me. They listen with care, and have a wonderful ability to stay “in the moment” with me. Because of that, I have no doubt they care about me and will offer me their honest views without reservation. That kind of caring candor is hard to find, and something that I think many of us treasure.
My highest business priority this year (and therefore item #1 on my list of New Year’s resolutions) is to listen more effectively…to really hear what others are saying to me and to respond to what my clients, colleagues and friends are saying in a way that makes it clear I did actually hear them. It seems to me that, as we are more and more swamped in remarkable communications technology and cool devices, we find it harder to connect with others in a personal way…to really hear what others are saying to us. It is a huge irony to me that more communications tools somehow make it harder to listen effectively. Perhaps it is because we are in a greater and greater rush to check on the next message that we cannot hear what our business colleagues are saying to us right now.
With that in mind, I am resolved to take the time to listen more carefully in my business encounters and to offer my clients and colleagues the caring candor they desire and deserve.
My business partner, Tim Thomas, who has developed a rich leadership development curriculum he is using to help many leaders strengthen their skills, makes these three simple points about effective communications to aid our ability to listen:
- Ask open ended questions to learn what the real issues are
- Don’t assume anything – keep an open mind so that you can hear the response to those questions without your own filters getting in the way
- Draw out what is in the background – help the person you are listening to make explicit the concerns, issues and implied messages that are behind the conversation what he or she is saying
Great advice as we approach a new business year.