Many of us feel we don’t have the time to listen, especially these days with so much noise, distractions and competing priorities. Time feels squeezed more than ever. There is something about the word “listen” that implies you are “taking” time to do it. As a coach and consultant, I get paid to listen, so I better do it well. As a leader, you get paid to listen so you know you are on the right strategies. So how can you listen “fast?”
Not being sure what my client meant by it, I asked, “what do you mean?”
He said, “You got right to the core of the issue really quickly,” And he wanted to “work through this situation quickly and move on.”
Time and speed implied again.
There is something about being in an uncomfortable situation that naturally has us wanting to “get out of it” as quickly as we can. And yet, counter-intuitively, this is precisely when we need to slow down, pause, reflect and regroup to be able to effectively discern what is happening. What is it that we need to learn and do differently? What do we really want? How do we best proceed?
While I was glad that my client found value in my support and my listening was accurate, I see it a little differently. I didn’t see that I got to the core but it was a combination of my presence and skill, his openness and discernment, and the interaction that happened between us in the context of our relationship – the process – all enabled us to get to the core of what he wanted to work on.
It may seem like semantics but there is a huge difference in who is facilitating the process, who is doing the work and having the insights, and the context in which this happens.
So, I invite you as a leader to ask yourself how do you listen fast to enable the conversations you need to have with your people?
What helps you to be full-on present with your constituents – to hold the space for them to talk? How do you listen with an open curiosity wanting to know more versus waiting for the next open space to show them how much you know? How do you enable them to feel more empowered and capable versus you being the hero with the answers? How do you listen to discover the wisdom they hold versus imposing your expertise?
My conclusion is:
Listening fast is not about any sophisticated listening techniques but being present to my client with a curious beginner’s mind that enables a process of discovery. This is where my years of meditation training serve me. I recognize it’s a practice. I lose focus. I redirect myself back. I know I’ve “got it right” when I get a “yes, that’s it” from my client, or they have a shift in perspective or change in action as a result of our dialogue.
Think of your leadership as a practice – there are days where you are on and days where you are not so on – or off. What directive do you give yourself to get “back on” with focused listening to better enable fast insight?
How do you listen with a beginner’s mind?
Think of the picture above, how do you become, what I call, the Buddha baby – wide eyed with curiosity, holding your assumptions, and seeking to genuinely hear, the often multi-layered, concerns of who is sitting in front of you?
Listening and reflection are the most under-utilized assets a leader has to better leverage themselves and their team, and it’s usually because they “don’t have the time.” The busier and more challenged you are, the easier it is to lose perspective and lose touch with your people. We have all become experts at tuning out the noise around us so much so that some valuable stuff can get missed. You can’t afford to spend time in static and distraction sub-optimizing your ability to leverage yourself.
Just for today, I invite you to play with your fastest path to tuning in. Time will slow down and speed up all at the same time.
Please share what works for you to stay dialed in and present to the moment, in the comments section below.
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Susan is an executive coach and leadership & organization effectiveness consultant. She also teaches yoga and meditation – tools to keep one sane in insane times. She helps professionals step up to their fullest leadership and growth potential. At getting out of their own way to get important stuff accomplished. www.sagelead.com.