Have you ever been at a meeting and somebody else is talking?
They’ve been talking for a little while and suddenly they turn around and say to you, “By the way, what’s your opinion?”
You suddenly go, “Oh my God, I have not been listening.”
Well, I put my hand up and say this has happened to me.
I’ve done this. I’d also have to say that I feel dreadful anytime it has happened to me. And I really try and make sure that it doesn’t happen to me anymore. But think of the impact.
We all kind of laugh about it and joke about it, because to a certain extent, we’ve all been guilty of it at some stage. But think of the impact because, after all, we know it’s the small things that matter.
Think of the impact that has on somebody you are managing. Because what you’re actually saying unintentionally, but very clearly, is that what they are talking about doesn’t matter.
I set as the title of this – Leaders influence by their presence which endures in their absence.
That is so important. Because if we think of the people that have had a major impact upon you, whether in a professional or personal capacity one of the characteristics that they all had in common was that every time that I was in conversation with them, the belief that I had was that they were fully concentrating on me and that nothing else was outside.
Now, maybe that wasn’t true. But it certainly was the feeling that I got. So I felt that I mattered at that moment.
What’s really important is that somebody feels that you are getting their undivided attention.
So, let me ask you – when you are on the phone are you multitasking? Are you having a quick flick through your emails, your Twitter feed, your social media, whatever it might be, or reading a memo that came into and landed on your desk? Maybe a little guilty of that? If so, and we all have been, you’re not giving your full attention to the conversation that’s going on and you’re picking up bits here and there.
What you’re doing is you’re picking up the highlights, as you hear it. You’re picking up the words that are said. But what you’re not doing is really concentrating on the individual.
Because when you concentrate totally on what the individual is saying, not only do you hear the words they’re using and the meaning behind the words, but you also are reading between the lines.
And you’re understanding how what they’re saying is impacting upon them. So it’s a complete listening experience. I really think that we, as leaders, really need to focus on our listening skills and to be fully present when we’re having conversations.
Because people communicate messages to us in many different ways – through words, their physiology, their body language, how they are standing, sitting, the tone of voice, all of those things. If you’re slightly distracted and doing other stuff, you’re not going to pick that up. And that’s absolutely for sure and for certain.
I know we’ve all had bosses down through the years that you kind of think, “Well, I’m not going to raise that particular issue because the minute I bring that sort of subject up, the eyes just glaze over and I know the conversation is dead.”
That’s not the sort of leader that you want to be. You want to be the sort of leader that people come and talk to you about whatever issue that they feel that they really need to and want to share with you. Because that’s the only way you’re going to coach and develop them to become future leaders.
I do accept that the challenge with all our connectivity with our iPhones and our Macs and our iPads and everything else that was going on around us that it’s really hard to be completely focused on a single thing.
But please, when you’re actually, having interaction with your people, make sure you’re giving your complete devotion to them. That you are not being distracted and not allowing distractions to interfere with that communication. Because that matters to them hugely but also it matters to you because you will learn an awful lot more if you are fully focused.
If you want to be a true leader, then you will be a true leader when your people are performing the way you want them to be, and they want to be when you’re absent. So remember, it does come down to your presence.
Be fully present for your people.
Be fully present in those conversations.
Don’t allow the distractions to interfere. Because that way, you will really be fulfilling your role as a leader of people and not one who’s just seen as going through the motions, which is not what you want.
So my challenge to you today is at your next meeting, be fully present!
No distractions, no nothing, be fully present.
That difference will be extraordinary, I can tell you, and the difference in how your people feel about you will shift too!
You will be really seen as a true leader. If you commit to the art of listening and being present.
Talk to you soon.