You Can Hear, But Do You Listen?
Yes, it has become an ability, a skill, a talent.
Hearing is innate for most. Listening is not.
Hearing is “the process, function or power of perceiving a sound.”
Listening is defined as “to hear something with thoughtful attention.”
Clearly our society is lacking in its ability to listen. You can even leave out the ‘thoughtful’ aspect of the definition. We rarely have any attention.
Why Should We Care?
As a teacher and coach, I’ve noticed a considerable decrease in people’s ability to follow simple directions. And, if the directions happen to require multiple steps or extended time between actions … forget about it.
The inability to consistently listen leads one to a few additional questions: Why and what else?
Why don’t we listen? Are we too busy? Do we have too many things begging for our attention - other people, social media notifications, duties and jobs? Do we just not care? All are potential answers at different times I’m sure, but I don’t subscribe to any of them in their entirety.
I think our desire, willingness, and appreciation for the details is declining rapidly. Combine that with a growing focus on ourselves, rather than others and you can easily see why the inability, even unwillingness, to listen is thriving. We’re quicker than ever to judge and dismiss the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of others. Besides, why would we listen when we already know.
This also points to the next question, what else? What else are we not paying attention to? What else doesn’t matter? What else do we gloss over as if it were never said? If we can’t execute one simple direction, what are the chances we can execute on multiple ones when time is of the essence and our performance depends on it. Not good I’m afraid.
As a leader, our ability to listen is paramount to our impact. We can’t expect to garner trust without the genuine desire to listen and understand the people on our team. It’s not a leap to proclaim the ability to listen as the most important skill of a leader.
If you work in isolation, there are a lot of skills that could trump listening’s importance. But, you don’t work alone - no one does. Therefore, the ability to listen is paramount.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Improving our listening skills isn’t an easy endeavor to undertake. It requires very intentional actions mentally in order to gain the proper perspective when interacting with your team.
Listening as the most important skill of a leader … seems too simple, doesn’t it? There are a lot of things important for excellent leaders to do and the argument can be made for a vast number of other attributes. But, don’t dismiss listening casually due to its simplicity. That’s where excellence resides.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.