If there is one thing I’ve learned in my line of work it’s this: Listening is an essential skill for success.
I’ve spent 24 years in law enforcement and I can tell you, you don’t get confessions from criminals if it’s you doing all the talking. It’s impossible to solve cases if you don’t really hear what others are saying. When you aren’t listening, you are not hearing important facts you may need: viewpoints, attitudes, and beliefs others hold which reveal who they are and their motivations. You also miss the opportunity to make a personal connection that will move you toward your goal, whether that’s a confession from a criminal or better collaboration with a co-worker.
This holds true in leadership, too.
One of the key components of leadership is good communication skills. Great leaders are powerful communicators—that’s why leadership books and classes usually include topics such as “Communicating Your Vision,” “Having Difficult Conversations,” or even “Speak Like a Leader.” But the best leaders, the ones who really get the job done, aren’t only good at getting their message across to others. They are also great listeners.
Speaking is only half the communication process. The other half, equally important, is listening. Too often, we view listening as simply being quiet until it’s our turn to talk, but truly effective listening is more than that and requires conscious effort.
The more we listen to others, the more information they are willing to reveal about themselves, and the better we will understand them, their problems and their needs as individuals. John Maxwell talks about how leadership is influence; surely the first step to influencing others is understanding their needs and point of view.