San Diego’s Best Team Building Events. Call 619-261-7663

Team Blog »

Ask! - Don't Tell!   

Becoming a Better Listener and a Master Asker

I am attempting to improve my leadership skills by learning to be a better listener.

That said, here's my confession, I need to identify myself as a recovering Lousy Listener.  

First, it was difficult for me to listen because I was too busy being an over-active, non-stop talker. "Yakity, yak". Hard to reconcile the two, trust me.

Second, someone who I really respect once pulled down my covers and said, "You know what? You're a lousy listener and here's why: 1) You are not really present when you are supposedly listening. Instead, you are listening autobiographically; meaning, while you are waiting for your turn to talk, you are busy searching your archives for better material than what you're currently hearing. 2) When it is your turn, you can't wait to tell your story that's not only supposedly better but, most of all, stars yourself! Know this, just because it happened to you doesn't necessarily mean that it's all that interesting! And, 3) Somehow transitioning to offering unsolicited advice seems to be where much of what you call conversation inevitably ends-up."

Ouch! That was hard to take. But I had to admit that he was right. I was the genuine article - a Lousy Listener, not an Asker but a Teller.

So, how could I turn this around and recover?

Here are 6 Steps Towards Better Workplace Listening:

1) Be Present. Fully present. Face the speaker. Make steady eye contact. Nodding and leaning forward indicates you are paying attention. In addition, you can say things such as "I see" and "uh-huh" if the information you are hearing is clear.

2) Do what you can to settle down and quiet your thinking, focusing on just plain respectful listening.

3) When you do get a chance to speak, why not verify what you've just heard? "What I heard you say is that your solution to this issue is..." This can go a long way to establishing positive rapport - truly honoring your speaker.

4) Ask questions. Then ask even more questions! Be nimble. Ask plenty of open-ended questions. Seek to go deeper with them and stimulate their thinking. Give them an opportunity to experience their own breakthrough discoveries.

5) Rewrite your job resume to include developing the skill set of becoming a Master Asker, armed with high quality questions. Ultimately, the performance of our teams will be a reflection of the quality of the questions we ask. Leaders and coaches who seek to ask more than tell end-up coaching independent leaders rather than sheep-like followers.  

6) Table the judgment mechanism. See how much more you can hear by being willing to not only listen but to give open-minded consideration to adopting the suggestions from your reports and workmates. You just may open yourself to effective solutions that you had never previously considered.   

Seek to ignite thought and stimulate discovery. Helping others think for themselves helps them take responsibility for their future decisions and actions.  

By becoming a better listener we empower others while giving ourselves a greater chance to humbly grow and to learn.

I am learning (slowly mind you) that being a better listener, rather than a teller, works exceptionally well in the workplace (It's pretty doggone useful at home too!).

"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." - Voltaire