Did You Hear What I Just Said?


Did You Hear What I Just Said?

The other day, one of our VIM Executive Coaching clients sent us an interesting quote:

“Are you listening with your heart? Or are you pretending to listen so that when someone stops you can start?”

On so many levels the quotation raises an important point, especially for executive leaders and entrepreneurs.

Downside of Digital
We live in a digital age where all too many people communicate by keystrokes instead of the heart. Whether we email or text or even send emojis to one another, or whether we use LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat or even Twitter to express our opinions, there is little human to human contact. In fact, even in meetings (countless meetings) I observe executives sitting across from one another, each with a smartphone in front of them, or by them, waiting for a message that will change their lives!

My point is that we are losing touch with one another. It’s a serious consequence of the age in which we live. Going back to the quote, executives we coach often revert to the “pretending to listen” mode and then, all too often, they come to us in a distressed state worried that they can’t seem to get through to staff members.

As our society evolves, we need to take particular caution as to how we listen to each other. When we sit across from a peer, are we really hearing what she is telling us? When an employee comes to us “in pain,” are we taking heed as to what he is saying? When two employees are having a disagreement and we sit and listen to them, are we listening with our hearts or are we waiting for a pause so we can say what we were thinking of saying 20 minutes before they even entered our office?

There is a genuine-ness in the skill of listening to another, so that we allow them the space to breathe and to express what they need to say.

We are told by child psychologists that it is very damaging for a child to go to a parent and to try to express themselves only to have the parent completely disregard or minimize what they are trying to say. Even worse, when the child goes to a parent and while talking, the parent pretending to listen, completely changes the subject and goes off in another direction.

Why would I bring that point up? Sadly, executive leaders and entrepreneurs often behave like that in their workplaces.

Just as parents start to “lose the child,” so too do executive leaders begin to lose peers, employees and work associates by practicing the art of listening.

Be within your Heart
Of course, our workplaces are tough and demanding but when we lose our ability to be truly authentic and, in the moment, our jobs are made even more difficult when people we value “go away from us.” Our tough and demanding workloads are made even tougher when we realize those we depend upon don’t support us.

One of the skills we particularly love to teach at VIM Executive Coaching is the simple act of being mindful; to be mindful in the moment and to be present. The way to be present is to listen with our hearts as well as our ears. Mindfulness meditation is the opposite of endlessly moving our fingers across an interactive screen.

In training ourselves to be mindful, we can be more authentic. When an employee comes to us with a problem, for example, we learn to listen with our hearts – to really listen and to allow the employee the space to breathe.

The best executive leaders or entrepreneurs I have ever observed are those who are fully present and who care enough to help everyone around them to be present as well. They are a special group who have the ability to hear what people are saying to them. It is not an unobtainable skill at all, merely a skill that requires authenticity and compassion.

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