Have you ever spoken in a meeting, clearly and accurately, only to discover that your words have been used in a way that you never intentioned? often, when this happens, people will doubt themselves and their own communication ability. That is not necessarily fair.
The ones listening will often have an agenda to their listening that will mean they are only hearing those things that support their agenda. They have listened and what they have taken fits their own agenda items. This can be overcome if you know their agendas – if you do not, it is impossible.
In all communication, know your audience, but if there are unknowns, dont beat yourself up when people are listening but never hearing.
Spending some time in a meeting and observing people, listening to what is said and keeping silent can be illuminating. In a recent meeting, I listened did this for a short time and learned some valuable information. I worked out who respected me, who liked me and who valued me and, even though it surprised me, the reverse.
Silence is a valuable tool
“I pointed to the stars and all you saw was the tip of my finger” African Proverb
It can be so easy to miss the bigger picture and this proverb sums it up perfectly. How often are we so busy recording an event, with camera or phone, that we fail to absorb what is going on around us? How much are we preparing our response, so that we fail to listen to the speaker?
Think bigger, listen bigger, look bigger and take it all in
Listening to your team is such an important part of leadership. It helps the team engage and interact, usually producing greater cohesion and results too. However, this is not always evident in teams and is often a source of frustration and disengagement within groups of people working together.
I have had the priviledge of being in 2 meetings, in recent months, where the leader has facilitated greater listening amongst the gathered group – he has said very little but provided an environment whereby the contributors can both input and listen. On each occasion there has been positive consequences for the assembled group as they have learned to understand and develop in ways that would have previously been impossible.
It was also interesting to read an article in “The Metro” (not the most reliable of freebie papers but has to be read once in a while) that talked about flight 1549 and its miraculous escape as it landed on the Hudson River. The article talked a little about the captain and his decision making process. Apparently the captain did not make the decision to land until he had consulted with the other crew members on the flight deck. It was only after this consultation that the decision to attempt a landing on the river was made – which ultimately saved the lives of all those on the flight. The pilot listened to the team.
In youth work circles we talk often about “listening skills” and when in mentoring relationships show excellence in this skill. However, as we lead our other staff/volunteers, we sometimes manage to forget the need to listen and can make decisions that create dysfunction. It is at these times when we can be our own worst enemy. Looking back on my own history, there are times when I have listened well and those occasions where I have battled on regardless. Guess which times where the most fruitful? Listening is such an important part of our leadership – let’s embrace it.