Active Listening

A leader has got 2 faces. The most common one is associated with the word itself: to lead. Quite a few  years ago I got asked, “What is your definition of leadership?” I still remember this because I focused strongly on the “to lead” aspect. My answer was: “To have a vision where we should be and guide the people I’m leading along the way.” This must have impressed the person as he hired me later 🙂

However, I realised later that my answer was just covering the obvious. To make that actually happen a leader must discover the “why”, “what” and “how”.

If you can spare 18 minutes watch Simon Sinek talk about it:

In short

  • WHY – do we need this?, do we change this?, does our customer want it?
  • WHAT – are we doing about it?
  • HOW – do we get there?

Now these are questions and questions require answers. To understand a leader needs to listen. Not just quietly listening but active listening. This is best achieved using one or more of the following

  • reflective listening
  • rapport
  • verifying what I heard is what you said
  • observing
  • paraphrasing
  • and summarising

Essential we give our full attention to the other party and make every effort through our behaviour, body language, and choice of words to understand what is said, demonstrated, or happening. To do this we use our V.O.I.C.E. This acronym embraces the aspects of active listening and helps us memorising it.

  • V = verbal attending
  • O = open questions
  • I  = I statements
  • C = check understanding
  • E = ending

I will only comment on I-statement aspect here because it took a moment to understand it. I statements are important when you paraphrase or use verbal rapport. It shows the other party this is how you understood it compared to how he said it. Thus it provides an opportunity to explain, explore, and clarify if needed.

What is your experience with active listening?

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