Listening and Leadership

This month is a topic of great interest to me and relevant to my work. Listening is something I’m always practising and trying to improve, so when I saw “The Executive’s Guide to Good Listening” in February’s McKinsey Quarterly I immediately took a look at it to see what I could learn.

From my interpretation of the McKinsey Quarterly article, I observed that good listening is marked by a range of characteristics and behaviours.

The characteristics include:
– Being open-minded and non-judgmental
– Having a possibility mindset
– Being quiet and bringing quietness to the mind, using silence, relaxing
– Being patient
– Being conscious and building perspective
– Being humble (controlling that pesky ego)

The suggested behaviours include:
– Encourage healthy and honest debate.
– Engage with interest and curiosity.
– Show respect.
– Acknowledge others’ unique skills, abilities, knowledge, and contributions.
– Let go of ego.
– Let go of fear (of not knowing, of not having the best idea).
– Slow down.
– Don’t put down or belittle others’ opinions.
– Question courageously.
– Pay attention: notice when your moods impede the flow of the conversation.
– Focus conversations on a bigger purpose and meaning, not on self-interest.

It struck me that if people practised some of these tips they would also experience greater strength, well-being and resilience…some great unintended by-products. For example, being courageous, patient, respectful, open-minded and non-judgemental enhances our positive emotions, which have an impact on both the listener and the speaker. On the converse, practising one of the best well-being ‘interventions’, mindfulness, improves a person’s ability to listen well. If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on the connections between well-being and listening, see this article, “Listening and Health”.

Reference: McKinsey article “The executive’s guide to better listening” by Bernard T. Ferrari

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