Listening….How important is it to be a good listener as a servant leader, or as a personal coach? I’m not sure there are a lot of things that are more important.

During my coaching training at Coach University earlier this year, the instructors dedicated at least a day and a half to active listening and how important it is to develop that skill. Since that training, I have found it truly is a skill that can be worked on and improved.

Many people take listening for granted. I know I was in that camp. We think that we listen to others all the time, but there is clearly a decided difference between hearing in a conventional sense, and listening in a way that will promote the growth of who you are talking to. Hearing is a sensory ability, while listening is a skill that can be worked on and improved with focus.

A few things to keep in mind when working on your listening skills might include:

  • Keep your own ego in check
  • Quiet your mind
  • Put your own agenda aside
  • Reserve judgment
  • Become a searcher of truth
  • Ask questions for which you don’t know the answers
  • Be present with the person you are talking to (No multi-tasking!)

My biggest take-away from my week of coaching training was to focus on the following:

         “Wait for silence, before forming the next question or comment”

I have found that more than any other tip, if I focus on that single thought, that I find myself far more in tune to what is being communicated to me. And guess what, sometimes silence will produce greater discovery as well, as opposed to me jumping into some question or comment that might not have really been relevant to the conversation.

As servant leaders, effective listening will also illustrate trust and respect with your team. When they know that you truly value their thoughts, ideas, and concerns you will get better information coming your way to help you lead the team.

As leaders we should be listening far more than talking. Would you be comfortable in a meeting to hold your talking to 20% or less, and maintain your listening to 80% or more? Try it and see how much more you may discover in the process. It will also provide a good model for the leaders that report to you, as they work with their respective teams.

I challenge you to assess your current listening skills, and commit yourself to improving in this area. I will guarantee it will make you a better leader and coach.

Mark Deterding