How Can Executives Listen Better?

Most executives focus on presenting their own views in the most effective way rather than on listening to the views of others. The discipline of listening, in my experience as an executive coach, makes a big difference in success or failure at work for leaders or, for that matter, most people.

About 90% of my clients, executives in MNCs, need to work on their listening. And listening works for the people I coach in Greater China, East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe and North America.

In the February 2012 edition of the McKinsey Quarterly Bernard T. Ferrari wrote the article “The Executive’s Guide to Better Listening.”

In response I have crafted several principles for effective listening for executives (or, indeed, anyone):

1. Listen with appreciation
2. Listen until the other person is finished (allow the release of feelings until clear ideas are forthcoming)
3. Ask insightful questions to get ideas flowing
4. Allow the generation of fresh thinking to enable innovation; set goals based on clear thinking, then act and get results.

Busy leaders often feel they have neither time nor opportunity to cultivate relationships based on listening. But when people are listened to and heard they think more clearly and flexibly. They also need to listen to others in turn. Everyone reaches a deeper understanding of others’ views and ideas. People can then generate amazingly creative ideas.

As we form trusting relationships we each feel valued and needed. And we then function at a higher level as individuals and in a group.

With whom do you feel you can share your ideas most deeply? What does that person do that enables you to share so deeply? I bet he or she knows how to listen.

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