Listening Speaks Volumes at Work and in Life

To “say nothing” was the hardest skill I’ve had to learn in my career.  Though self confidence, experience and title have helped to minimize the need to be heard, learning how to affectively listen is a skill greatly needed.  I’ve learned that getting people you are trying to coach or impress upon to finish the thought on their own leads to greater psychological buy in. Getting people to work through the smaller problems towards a greater collective goal is great leadership, merely telling them what to do is not.  Though I have lead and learned from failure, one of my favorite practices is approaching the problem with follow up questions.

Utilizing follow up to direct the person you are coaching to notice the issue on their own and ask for help, or find the solution on their own creates a different emotional tag to the problem.  The idea to allow someone to have a say (even if only an illusion) in something will cause them to care more about the issue at hand.  We have all been in meetings with minimal to no interactions at all and take almost nothing from it; even if the information given was needed, it’s the way it was communicated.

If you care about it, have some form of buy in, you’ll pay that much more attention to it. Make sure you give time for those you interact with the time to share, converse and respond.


For Example:

A few years ago while in the process of turning around a restaurant franchise they had recently purchased an existing company to double their size.  They had been doing things a certain way (which we perceived wrong) for many years and needed to be coached to change.  If we put our foot down saying change this way today with no buy in it would take quite a long time to get them to turn things around.  If we lead with asking them what they feel is wrong, then lead them to our solutions with questions and coaching it allows for a greater buy in of the same information.

You can tell someone to turn left because it’s the right way to go, but you can also point out a landmark to the right that you both know is the wrong direction allowing them the perception of choosing to turn left.  This allows them a feeling of buying in, feeling apart of the solution and growth towards the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve.

Habitually we talk too much and leave little time to listen and understand what is being communicated; this same approach has taught me to listen and repeat back even if it’s merely to acknowledge they understand. This is important because we (myself included) waste breath over explaining instead of giving what’s needed, asking follow up questions and listening to ensure proper direction was given and received.  I’ve had issues with this in the past where I speak up when it isn’t needed, instead of pointing to someone who understands and leading them to direct the group.

When you are in charge of multiple units and groups it is just as much about the ripple effect that you cause to ensure communication. Simply stating the information and hoping it is heard is not effective; ensuring people who are there every day in that unit are bought in and will echo the cause greats the ripples you need.

Have you ever been certain you told someone or emailed something to find out you never did? Taking moments to listen, ask and let things simmer give your brain time to process and store information more effectively than a fleeting event. If you put the same amount of attention into communicating your drink order as you do work items your probably missing things.  Listening and leading go hand in hand, it’s not just about giving the orders; it’s about setting up others for maximized retention.


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