One of the most frequently shared maxims with new leaders is the idea that:
There is a difference between hearing and listening.
However as leaders, we should and can do better than that. We need to be empathetic listeners.
I was reminded of this last week in a conversation with a business unit executive. My team has been asked to look into how to make a process operationally faster. However, as we have talked about the blog before, I didn’t believe we were solving for the real problem. Thinking I had a solution in mind, I set up the call to discuss with this executive, my client, on a deeper solution and to ask for their thoughts on this.
What proceeded over the next thirty minutes of our discussion was this client sharing much more intimate details on his concerns and the opportunities the business faces if we can get this process right. The ideas and the open issues took my view of the challenge to an entirely new level. And while my initial thoughts went back to my own solution, I took the opportunity to step back and practice listening with empathy. Empathetic listening means really putting myself in this person’s place to understand what success meant and suspending my own response to how I felt it should fit in to “my plans”.
As a result I have a more holistic view of the needs of this business and how we can begin the design process around them.
Some may argue this point, but I believe empathetic listening goes even a level deeper than active listening (which is defined as a way of listening and responding to deeper mutual understanding). But by introducing empathy and truly suspending judgment there is a potential to uncover unmet needs and create the processes your clients will want to engage with.
Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:
Your employees wish you were emotionally intelligent – by Natalie Baker – via the Economist
- SO WHAT: The traditional skills are not what will enable deeper engagement with your employees.
12 New Challenges Leaders Face – by Mark Sanborn – via Medium
- SO WHAT: Love this article – leaders are facing new and different challenges no more than ever. Here are some that really hit home.
When Was the Last Time You Asked, “Why Are We Doing It This Way?” – by Hal Gregersen – via HBR
- SO WHAT: The best thing I read all week – A question that everyone in the organization should (feel free to) be asking…
None of the above – by Seth Godin – via @thisissethsblog
- SO WHAT: Leaders. Embrace. Uncertainty.
The Secret To Creativity: Become An Intellectual Middleman – by Laura Vanderkam – via Fast Company
- SO WHAT: Intellectual middlemen have “learned how to transfer knowledge between different industries or groups.”
all the best, kevin