Friday, February 1, 2013

can you hear me now?

I was reading this week an interesting article from the 1968 Phi Delta Kappan entitled The unheroic side of leadership: Notes from the swamp by Jerome T. Murphy.  A portion of his thoughts focused on listening and acknowledging.

It is the ability to listen that ought to be predicated by any action.  I have often heard that listening is a “soft” leadership skill, and I couldn't disagree more.  The skill of listening, empathetic listening, is one of the most difficult things to do.  It is so much easier for me to shut the person down quickly, with limited information, make a judgment and move on.  Good listening, however, requires an active effort to understand the world from another’s perspective.  It requires analysis of what has been said (including body language) and a sense of what has been left unsaid.  It’s just not listening to facts; a leader needs to understand feelings, meanings,  & perceptions.  It is an opening at an emotional level.

Often, folks just want an opportunity to express their frustrations and concerns.  To quote Murphy: “The very process of verbalizing frustrations and having them acknowledged often enables these individuals to move forward.”

On a bigger scale, organizational resources typically don’t meet the demands, as reasonable as they may be. This puts leaders in a tough spot, and listening is often the only thing that can be done. “...There is a big difference between a disappointed employee (who can deal with limited resources) and an employee who feels unheard (and therefore angry).”

Listening may be the key factor in acknowledging others.  It shares that we care and that we value what they bring to the table. 

My challenge this week is to practice listening skills...we may be surprised at how it also transforms relationships, and acknowledges individual worth.