- July 10, 2019
- Posted by: David Marshall
- Category: Leadership, Management
Several (okay, many) years ago, I had a chance to attend the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina. I attended with many military and government leaders who were looking to improve their own leadership skills and better manage their staffs.
While I was there, I learned a lot of valuable lessons about how to communicate, how to manage, and how to lead.
One of the biggest and best lessons I learned, and one that still stays with me all those years (okay, not that many) is the importance of intelligent listening.
As leaders, we oftentimes get so wrapped up in what our own accomplishments should be and how we should achieve them, we really don’t listen to people around us. Whether it’s our own associates, customers, and even our rivals, we focus less on them and more on ourselves.
We need to listen more closely to find the real messages we should be getting, and figuring out how to separate those from the noise. We can get so mired in other people’s talking and chatter that we never get to the real message, whether sending or receiving. (Remember, your important communication is someone else’s chatter.)
Intelligent listening also means learning some of the fundamentals of sound communication. For example, engineers require data, which means they’re usually more interested in long emails with a lot of information. Meanwhile, executives don’t need all that data, they want executive summaries and bulleted lists. And salespeople focus more on the “bright and shiny objects” and they think more in terms of features and benefits, so you should focus on “what’s in it for me?” information.
Understanding communication fundamentals means knowing how to send messages the way your audience wants to receive them.
So intelligent listening means listening for the clues that tell you how to respond to the different people you work with. If someone is more creative and not interested in too much data, you can’t bog them down with details. If someone is thoughtful and considered, they probably want more proof and details.
One way we learned intelligent listening was through a 360 degree personal assessment by your classmates. The average class size is about 24, and there are 8 participants for one instructor, which means your assessment comes from your core 8. Essentially, everyone gets a shot at you, but you get a shot at everybody else.
It’s amazing, eye opening, and even a little painful, because there’s stuff in there that you didn’t want to know, or may have even have a blind spot to. But now you know it and you have to learn to deal with it.
We hear over and over from productivity and HR consultants that active listening is important to clear and effective communication. But intelligent listening goes even deeper to paying attention to how someone else prefers to receive information and process it. If you can practice intelligent listening, you have a greater chance of successful business relationships with the people who work all around you.
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
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