Deep Listening as a Leader

Deep Listening as a Leader

Written by Joel L. Domingo, Ed.D.

One of the most thought-provoking books that I’ve ever read is called “Listening to the Littlest” by Ruth Reardon. Written from the perspective of a toddler, the book, which curiously looks like a children’s book no less, is written for parents to remind them that children communicate in many ways. Often, these ways of communication happen without the use of words. The point is that listening is much more than simply taking in information, but is an active and engaged process that allows for one to consider meaning, context, intent, and all the other good things communication consultants will tell you.

Though I’ve often thought about how I communicate as a leader, the book reminds me of something more important—how I listen as a leader. Listening among other things involves being present and available, being engaged in the conversation amidst any distractions, and being able to suspend one’s own belief about something before responding. More often than not, when one chooses to deliberately and intently listen, new ideas and a new frame of mind can emerge.  Some have coined the term, “deep” or “active” listening to describe this phenomenon.

Some time ago, I came across a TED talk where the presenter, Julian Treasure, offered several suggestions on how to develop better listening skills. What he offered were a few simple exercises that if practiced regularly, could lead to better listening. One such exercise that I’ve been working on is called “The Mixer.” What this involves is identifying how many unique sounds you can hear. Take for example a typical coffee shop—there is the sound of the door opening and closing, the sound of the barista taking a customer’s order, the sound of multiple conversations going on, the sound of the air blowing through the air ducts, the sound of footsteps from customers approaching the bar to pick up their drink, the sound of a person typing on their computer, the sound of traffic outside, the sound of coffee pouring through the machine, the sound of the milk being poured into a cup, and so on.  If you stop and think about it, there are dozens of sounds in any given moment.

In a world that is filled with the cacophony of soundbites and general “noise” of the modern world, being a leader who can listen to understand rather than listen to respond is a good thing!

What are some strategies that you use for being a leader that listens? I’m listening…

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