In reading several human capital magazines and online forums in the past few months, there seems to be a growing recognition of the epidemic of poor listening skills, especially at leadership levels. I was recently asked if there was a connection between listening skills and EQ. Yes!
All of us know that listening is important. It is how we make sense of the situation we are in and the action steps we have to take. Listening, one of only five sensory mechanisms we have, is also important because if done correctly, allows the other party to continue to be engaged with you either at that moment or another, instead of feeling rushed, ignored, and not important. Good listening therefore, is very much a key part of creating an emotionally safe environment for truth to be revealed, and for the speaker to engage and trust you.
The reason often given for poor listening skills is time. You are in a hurry, and just do not have time to listen to all the details especially when you already know what the solution is. This is a defense mechanism and an admission of very poor EQ skills, not of insufficient time. Empathy is a key component of EQ (measured in almost all EQ instruments) and not listening is in effect demonstrating poor empathy skills. By not listening, you are explicitly conceding that you do not care how the other person feels or needs to feel. It is myopic too in that one data point like this can potentially shut that person off from ever speaking to you again or in a truthful manner. In a global study by CCL last year, empathy rated as one of the higher leadership attributes. You just cannot be an effective leader without knowing how to shut up and listen. As my mentor always says “listening is much more than waiting for your turn to speak.”
There are dozens of listening skills that you can learn – verbal and non verbal. A simple google search will get you that list and they are very intuitive. This week, set a goal to listen 75% and talk 25% in all your meetings. This will be very hard for most of you but try it. Make the best use of your 25% air time to ask the right questions and say the right things. What you will likely find surprising is that good listening skills actually reduces the amount of time needed to have meaningful dialogues!