From Cheryl Jensen’s “Leadership as Coaching” Blog:
There is listening and then there is listening. As I coach leaders and executives, I find one of the important differentiators between a good manager and a great manager is the ability to listen…really listen. Here’s what I mean. Really listening is the ability to turn off the voice in my head that tells me I should add a comment or tell my story or just take over. When I’m “just listening” sometimes I find I can fall into a conversational competition. You may have experienced it, too. It’s when I think I should add my insight because it will teach an important lesson (that they might otherwise miss), or add my description because it is better than theirs…or my experience is more meaningful. See what I mean?
When a leader can really listen by getting beyond their own interests…by getting their own agenda out of the way, they give an important gift to their employee – the gift of attention. The employee feels valued. It is a currency that is more valuable than money and one that retains and encourages talent. Just listening.
“You aren’t getting it done!” Ah, the words of a sales manager at the end of a quarter. He was berating his top producing seller because a major deal (one of those that makes the numbers for the quarter) was slipping away. You aren’t getting it done! When we looked under the “getting it done” part we found a product that wasn’t shipping. We also found a client who was loyal – but could be pushed into dissatisfaction if the sale was motivated by something other than their best interest (like getting a sale closed by the end of the quarter!). I could tell this wasn’t going to end well.
Here is the learning point for leaders….when I vent my frustration or anger through You aren’t getting it done! it may make me feel better (or justified), but that is the ONLY good thing that comes out of it. There is a dynamic among humans called “emotional contagion.” The emotions of a leader are contagious. When I communicate frustration, I create an environment of suspicion and judgment. My question for you is, “how effective are you when surrounded by suspicion and judgment?”
The end of quarter sales situation is frustrating…but what if I manage my emotions and communicate differently? You aren’t getting it done can become – “What you’ve tried isn’t working. What are other options?” By the way, let me ask my question another way. How effective are you when surrounded by hope and possibilities?
A great leader understands the full spectrum of their impact when faced with challenging conversation.
Cheryl is the Academic Director for the Certificate in Leadership program.
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