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  • jamesarndt13

You have 2 ears to listen...

One of the fundamental aspects of leadership is one of the simplest, dare I say basic elements of successful human relationships. Listening. To lead is to influence and contrary to our instincts we can successfully influence others more by listening than talking. This has been one of the most difficult things for me to learn during my seventeen years of leading local government agencies. It is so simple, but so difficult.

My instincts are to lead from the front, point, shout, direct, walk tall and carry a big stick. However the secret to influencing our fellow man is to listen and not just to listen, while you think about what you are going to say next. It's okay, you can admit it. We all do it! The secret is to listen in order to connect with the other person or other people in the sense of an organization. How do you listen to connect? You listen to gain an understanding. You listen to what is actually being said. You listen to what is actually not being said. You listen and then ask clarifying questions to insure you understand. I am not talking about robotic programmed responses, but actual inquisitive questions to insure you understand the other person and the situation.

Note, it is very important to realize you cannot truly listen when you are running your mouth. Try it now. You can hear what you are saying, but you truly cannot understand what the other person is saying. If you cannot understand them, how can you influence them? Biologically speaking, you have two ears and one mouth. One train of thought is that we intentionally speak 1/3rd of the time and listen 2/3rds of the time. I am not going to say it is easy, but I will say that if you make an effort, your leadership will improve, because you will begin making connections and your understanding of your team members is going to dramatically improve.

I remember when I attended the Midwest Leadership Institute in Naperville, Illinois for the first time several years ago. One of the epiphanies that struck home to me was that listening was a critical leadership skillset. That struck home. It was a nugget of wisdom that resonated with me. Becoming a better listener does not happen overnight. There is no magic pill you can take at night and wake up a listening expert in the morning. Listening is a skill that is forged in the fire of your daily interactions with your fellow man. Nevertheless, as with any skill, if you consistently practice it, it will improve over time. As your listening improves over time so will your leadership.

Give it a try. My mantra is "Do it now!" Start now and look back a few weeks, months, years from now and you as well as your team will be glad that you did!

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