“Conversation in the United States is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener.” – Nathan Miller  

Currently, I am reading Brian Billick’s book Competitive Leadership: Twelve Principles for Success.  He makes the following argument, “The single greatest attribute of an effective leader: the ability to listen.”  However, he also soberly adds, “Keep in mind that for most people, listening is about the hardest work they’ll ever do.”  I agree.

I stink at listening skills.  It is bad.  I wish I was so much better.  During conversations, I just get so excited I mistakingly interrupt or I am focused on what I am going to say when the other person finishes speaking.  It is truly nothing personal but I am a bad listener.  That being said, I have to get better in this area.  My wife would appreciate it as well.

Part of my 2018 Personal Development Plan is to improve my listening skills.  Coach Billick’s book has been very helpful in this area.  Not only does he discuss the importance of listening skills, he provides a template on how to improve in this area.

His thoughts were so helpful for me that I wanted to share them with you.  The following are 14 Ways To Improve Your Most Likely Worst Leadership Skill – Listening Skills:

  1. Listen For What You Will Get – Do not just listen to be polite.
  2. Listen Critically To Effective Communicators – Sometimes we tend to be mesmerized by great communicators and miss their content.  You must be disciplined to glean the ideas from effective communicators and not just be impressed with style of delivery.
  3. Listen Critically To Poor Communicators – Listen for ideas rather than style or entertainment.
  4. Listen When Others Speak – Rather than thinking what you are going to say next, stop and listen to what is currently being said.
  5. Listen Actively – Stay mentally alert.  Do not be a passive listener.
  6. Work Hard At Listening – You must apply yourself to be a good listener.
  7. Schedule Your Listening – Be smart.  Schedule times you need to listen when you do not have competing priorities, pressures or preoccupations.
  8. Minimize External Distractions When Listening – Find a good place to listen to others.  For me, if I need to listen to listen, do not eat at restaurants with dozens of televisions showing sports.
  9. Listen For Meaning – There is a big difference between “I heard what you said” and “I see what you mean.”
  10. Listen Patiently – Not everyone can speak at the same time.  Have some self-control and wait your turn.
  11. Paraphrase What You Listened To – Repeat back what was just said.  It shows respect, interest and helps with accuracy.
  12. Listen For Feelings – Understand the emotions of the speaker when they are delivering their message.
  13. Listen With Body Language – Lean forward.  Smile.  Look the speaker in the eye.
  14. Do Not Stop The Conversation Until You Have Listened – The goal is listening is to hear what is being communicated and then applying what you heard.  If you are still unsure of what is being said, continue asking questions and listening until you do.

What is one thing you learned from the list above to improve your listening skills?


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