It’s almost cliché to say that we are all so busy. Deadlines, meetings, events, networking, personal and family responsibilities eat up our time often leaving us thinking, “gee, if I only had a few more hours in the day.”
As a leadership communications coach, I can attest that no matter where you are among the levels that make up the corporate world, putting in extra hours is not necessarily the solution. It’s what you do with the time that you have that really matters.
One of the most efficient time saving skills is active listening. Just imagine how much time you’d put back into your day if you asked key questions at the time of assignment, sought to restate and clarify anything you were unsure of before taking on the task, and recapped what is needed and when your boss/supervisor can expect the task to be completed. Imagine too, if your direct-reports and team members did the same with you.
Click to tweet: Active listening helps build trust, create and maintain relationships, obtain accurate information, and avoid/reduce conflict. What does it take to actively listen? We frame it in six simple steps: http://ow.ly/GEyD50y2cHp @taftcomms #PR #leadershipcommunications
Your reward would be increased confidence in tackling the assignment, alerting others to any issues that arise that will affect or derail the deliverable, and being able to provide exactly what is needed at the time it is needed. And when your direct reports and team members actively listen to you, you’ll spend less time repeating yourself, following up, editing/re-writing, or re-assigning tasks.
A dream? Not really. Some of us do work in an environment where active listening is taught and practiced. Yet, some of us may not, at least not on a consistent basis. We all know that senior leader, manager and/or team member who lacks this vital communications skill. You know, the one who responds in such a way that you just know they are not really listening to you and in turn did not really hear what you fully said. In other words, they are not listening to understand, rather they are listening just to respond.
Active listening is key to getting the most out of any conversation. It helps build trust, create and maintain relationships, obtain accurate information, and avoid/reduce conflict.
What does it take to actively listen? At Taft ClearPoint, we frame it in these six simple steps:
- Shut up – Pay attention. Stop talking and just listen.
- It might sound simple enough, but how often do we talk over people when they are speaking to us or seek to finish their sentences, verbally or in our head?
- Shut down – Stop thinking about anything outside of the conversation.
- We call this the time to stop the mental noise, i.e., the constant chatter of the mind (“the chattering monkey”). You know, thinking about that report due later today, the dinner date with friends, having to pick up your son from his friend’s house, wondering when the rain will stop, and on and on.
- Show ‘em – Let them know you are listening with an appropriately timed head nod, good eye contact, facial expressions.
- Clarify – Repeat and/or restate (paraphrase) key messages in order to ensure you heard and understood correctly.
- Compose – Now take the time to form your response.
- Respond – Verbally react to their message. Now, it’s your time to talk, be heard, ask questions, express feelings and be an active and effective communicator in a two-way or multi-way conversation.
You may think that the time it takes to go through each step is time-consuming: I promise you it’s not. Most will happen congruently and over time quite naturally. Also, think of it this way, the time you take to actively listen will save you and your team from significant lost time on the back end.