I am delighted to share this guest blog post from my friend David Grossman. I’ve been a fan of David’s work for years. I had high expectations for his latest book, Heart First: Lasting Leader Lessons from a Year that Changed Everything; and I wasn’t disappointed. This book is visually stunning and filled with rich lessons and guidance for leaders at any level. In this post, David delves into one of the critical requirements for leading with Heart First: communication.
Learn more about Heart First: Lasting Leader Lessons from a Year that Changed Everything. But for now, enjoy!
Authentic Leadership During These Unprecedented Times: The Role of Listening
Perhaps one of the biggest understatements ever, is to say we are living in unprecedented times. The level of change leaders have faced and continue to encounter as a result of the global pandemic and social unrest can seem endless. And yet, we’re learning a lot as we work through these challenges and changes.
About a year ago, in recognition of the future significance of this moment, I began inviting a select group of leaders to sit down and talk about the change they were experiencing. I wanted to gather the insights they were picking up as they went along. The results of those interviews – along with other lessons I’ve learned from advising leaders and communicators across a wide variety of organizations – resulted in the leadership book I recently released, Heart First: Lasting Leader Lessons from a Year that Changed Everything.
What does Heart First mean? I am not suggesting the hard – the more head-focused – measures are abandoned particularly related to the financial side of a business. Instead, it’s about putting more focus on empathy and embracing the more human aspect of situations. For some, this may be a seismic shift; others will need to avoid the tendency to drift back to pre-pandemic ways. Regardless of your place on the spectrum, I am more convinced than ever that leading with Heart First is likely to be among the most important lessons we need to take forward for organizational success.
Recapturing the Power of Listening
So, how can you make this a reality? What are some practical applications of the learnings? A theme that came through my conversations loud and clear was the importance of returning to tried and true communication principles.
Among the most basic of principles are the process of sending and receiving communication. Yet, somehow, we too often place an overwhelming emphasis on the “sending” and sorely neglect the “receiving”—the listening.
Here’s an excerpt from Heart First on this important topic:
Leaders, in particular, often forget to listen and fall into the trap of trying to control the message without seeking real, meaningful communication. The reality is that the best communicators—and leaders—spend much of their time observing, absorbing and really listening to— and hearing their employee. . . One of the greatest skills that any leader can master is becoming comfortable with silence. Many people view silence as empty space that needs to be filled, but when leaders learn to accept it—and work with it—they open the doors for others to speak and be heard. The result is often an unexpected and enlightening connection and a wealth of information.
How You Can Be a Better Listener
So, in practical terms, how can you enhance your ability to listen? Another brief excerpt from Heart First offers some thoughts:
- Stop talking
- Suppress the inclination to think about what you are going to say next
- Don’t multitask; focus closely on the speaker
- Ask questions to ensure you understand
- Paraphrase what you’re hearing
- Listen with an open mind, not for what you want to hear
- Pay attention to what’s not said
Consider What You Miss
Consider what we are missing when we don’t listen as effectively as we could. We miss the chance to learn something new or gain a different perspective. We miss the opportunity to gain context that helps situations make more sense and we forego the opportunity to show respect for another person even when – and maybe most importantly when – we don’t understand or agree with the person.
When was the last time you reflected on your listening skills and how this critical leadership skill could be improved?
Heart First: Lasting Leader Lessons From a Year that Changed Everything is available for sale on Amazon at a special discounted price through October.
Win Free Copies of Heart First
David Grossman has generously offered to give 5 of our readers up to 10 copies of Heart First to share with their team. To win, simply be one of the first 5 people to comment on this blog.
About David Grossman
David Grossman is a sought-after speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 leaders. A four-time author, David is CEO of The Grossman Group, an award-winning Chicago-based strategic leadership development and internal communication consultancy; clients include: Abbott, Aspen Dental, Form Technologies, Hillrom, Lockheed Martin, and Southern New Hampshire University, among others. David’s expert commentary on employee and leadership issues has been featured on “NBC Nightly News,” CBS MoneyWatch, in the Chicago Tribune, Forbes and the World Economic Forum, among others. His leadercommunicator blog has been named the #1 Blog on Communication by Feedspot five years in a row.
This concept is very timely with so much of our leadership occurring virtually in a fast-paced environment. It can be difficult to stay completely focused and truly listen when the interaction isn’t face-to-face.
I couldn’t agree more. My attention is very different virtually than in person. I’ve tried things like forcing myself to stay on camera (even when I don’t want to) and taking more notes than ever before – all in an effort to remain focused and fully engaged. What have you found helps you?
I couldn’t agree more about the practice of listening. Connecting in relationships with others as a leader is key; if you’re not present you’ll miss many opportunities to capture good ideas or learn about team needs.
That is so true, Renee! Listening is such an underrated skill – yet, it’s at the core of every important leadership action. In addition to missing out on ways to capture good ideas and learn about one’s team, the like of listening and presence you describe creates deep bonds and meaningful connections. I would imagine that leaders who’ve mastered this may find themselves less affected by the ‘great resignation.’
Simple truths which we often forget.
Well said, Chris. Thank you!
I think of it like we are all sitting at a table with playing cards. Everyone wants to win the prize for themselves. In order to lead ‘heart first’, I have to lay my cards face down and LISTEN as I ask each person what cards are they holding. For collectively we can come up with solutions and everyone wins.
What a beautiful way to express this, Stacey. That is exactly what it’s like. And that’s the only way we can play a game that allows everyone to win! Thanks so much for this rich analogy!