The most difficult discipline for most executives is listening. Listening is easy when you like what you are hearing or when working with an upwardly mobile and eager employee. But try listening when you or the other is angry. Try listening when your emotions scream to have you disagree, give advice, use your power to punish, or flee the conversation. If you can listen when it’s difficult and you can control your emotional and psychological urges you are a radical listener.
Listening to understand is one thing but radical listening is an act of self-control. Radical listening allows the leader to make distinctions, for example, is the issue one of skill or one of will?
Radical listening helps the leader to…
- Coach areas of incongruity where the talk doesn’t equal the walk.
- Identify irresponsible language and victim mindsets that undermine results.
- Decide where to take the conversation: For example, is this the time to debate or the time to acknowledge?
- Determine if the issue calls for projecting certainty or cultivating curiosity.
Leaders who have developed their listening to the radical listening category aren’t triggered into angry debates or caught off guard by someone else’s agenda, or by the winds of emotion. Radical listening requires discipline and courage, but it is the best defense against being distracted or blindsided. Leaders who listen control the conversation and shape the culture.
Bottom Line: Radical listening improves executive performance.
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Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of “Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley 2011) and the author of “No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). Visit her website, and connect via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.