Those of you familiar with MindSet training know that we put an emphasis on the skill of active listening. Unfortunately, it increasingly seems to be a lost art – in equal parts due to shortening attention spans (sometimes referred to as popcorn brain) and increasing self-absorption.
Active listening involves the ability to focus our attention – and I mean ALL of our attention – on understanding what the other person is trying to communicate, i.e., what they are thinking and what they are feeling. Poor active listening leads to numerous problems for a leader, including an increased likelihood that the leader will solve problems that weren’t the real problem.
A closely related skill to active listening is the ability to effectively pull important information from the brain of another human. I found a recent Fast Company article by Shane Snow to offer some valuable reminders and a few powerful tips relating to skillfully eliciting information, i.e., questioning in such a manner as to maximize the effective use of your time when speaking with someone else. Similar to effective active listening, a key to insightful questioning is to resist the temptation to use our time and mental resources to communicate our thoughts rather than energetically embracing the opportunity to openly learn from the other person.
Your personal success is correlated with your ability to actively listen – and in some instances effectively question. Fortunately, most of us can hone our active listening and questioning skills by making a conscious effort. I would encourage you to do so. I think you will find the quality of your decision making will improve, the breadth of your knowledge will expand, and you will increasingly be perceived as a caring and reflective professional who is eager to grow.
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Related: Intellectual Humility – why the best leaders use active listening to maximize their teams success.