Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

Listen to Understand

February 26, 2013 by Jeff James, Vice President & General Manager, Disney Institute

Dedicating one-on-one time to your employees is an empty gesture unless you are truly listening. As Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People put it, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

All too often a leader will fail in their quest to listen because of a stray thought or a preoccupation with formulating a sentence of their own. Of course, truly listening is no simple task. People will ramble out of nervousness and, often unintentionally, dance around the point they are trying to make. But, as Lee Cockerell writes, " … hang in there, because you never know when a glimmer of an idea might shine through."

There is another reason to give someone your full attention. Remember our "3 oclock parade" question? The idea that what someone is asking versus what someone is trying to ask can be very different applies in this situation. Stay focused, read between the lines, and consider recapping what has been said so that you can be sure that you are understanding them fully and correctly.

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Posted in Leadership Excellence | Tagged Leadership Skills, Leadership Team, Effective Management, Executive Coaching, Employee Engagement Ideas, Communication Skills, Increase Productivity, Leadership Excellence | 1 Comments

1 Responses to Listen to Understand

  • Dana says:

    on April 23, 2013

    Dear Jeff, Your post is extremely important and the subject (better said, the art) of listening should be talked about much more in all management trainings. I haven't emphasized enough on the whys and hows of listening in my own leadership trainings, but there is something I'd like to add to what you wrote: We all listen from "a certain place". if we imagine two people having a conversation, the "listening" part can only truly take place if both are sharing the same "mental and emotional space". Metaphorically, this space of mental and emotional alignment can be described as being "on the same page", but it refers to much more than having a common understanding of the things discussed. In a negotiation for the increase of his salary, the "emotional" place that the employee is speaking from is his heart, with the fear that, unless he gets a raise, he won't be able to pay his child's college tuition; his boss speaks from the mind (which is a very different "place"), knowing his board just decreased his budget for the next year. Until they meet eachother in the same mental and emotional "place", the two won't be able to hear eachother. How do you bring the two together? Here is where values do come into play. If a company's values are not integrated into/aligned with the ethnic and personal values of the majority of its employees, its long-term success will be compromised and employee turnover will be high.

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