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Xenonex agrees – Listening Is an Overlooked Leadership Tool

No doubt about it, listening is a vital skill to be a great coach.  But there are different ways to listen and it is important to be aware of both how and why we listen in order to maximise great coaching conversations.


This edited article by Melissa Daimler, head of Global Learning & Organizational Development @Twitter offers some good advice on how we can listen more.


Listening is an overlooked tool that creates an environment of safety when done well. Several studies over the decades have estimated that we spend anywhere from a third to half our time listening. And yet we don’t retain very much. Back in 1957, researchers found that listeners only remembered about half of what they’d heard immediately after someone finished talking. There’s no reason to think that ratio has improved since then.


Listening can be a challenging skill to master. In our management development sessions, we find it helpful to highlight three levels of listening:


Internal listening -  focused on your own thoughts, worries, and priorities, even as you pretend you’re focusing on the other person. In our sessions, we usually illustrate this type of listening with a simple prop — an iPhone. People laugh, not because it’s funny, but because they recognize that this type of listening is what they often do themselves.


Focused listening is being able to focus on the other person, but you’re still not connecting fully to them. The phone may be down and you may be nodding in agreement, but you may not be picking up on the small nuances the person is sharing.


360 listening. This is where the magic happens. You’re not only listening to what the person is saying, but how they’re saying it — and, even better, what they’re not saying, like when they get energised about certain topics or when they pause and talk around others.


So how can we listen more? Three suggestions to try this week:


Look people in the eye.  Put down your phone when you’re in meetings. Close your laptop. See if you’re more energised about work and the people with whom you work.


Create space in your day. Manage your calendar and stop booking yourself out the entire day. Can someone on your team be part of that meeting? Does it need to be an hour, or can 30 minutes suffice? Give yourself time for reflection and space throughout the day, so that when you are talking with someone, you can give them your full attention.


Ask more questions. Next time a colleague or employee asks for advice, make sure you’re listening and understand the situation. Then, before answering, ask a question. Clarify what they really need — usually it’s just validation that their thinking is on the right track.


Twitter employees are evangelists of the power of social media platforms to connect people and share information at lightning speed all over the world. However, we’ve got to insist on time for uninterrupted face-to-face conversation. Even in a world of limitless, instantaneous, global connection, the most powerful mode of communication is that of two people listening.


Xenonex is an approved ILM Centre and is recognised for the quality and standard of its training in the National ILM Hall of Fame. The Xenonex team trains internal and external coaches and has experience of developing and embedding coaching within the public and private sector.


For more information call 0113 322 9234 or email katy.hebblewhite@xenonex.co.uk


Suzanna Prout