Three High-Performance Listening Skills Great Leaders Embrace

By Dr. Karen Jacobson

It was a Friday evening and I was out with a small group of my friends at a Happy Hour. We were all seated around a table sharing stories over drinks and appetizers. Throughout most of the evening, one of the guys in our party was on his cellphone working a real-estate deal and talking to one of his team members who was sitting across the table. Andrew was so involved in his business that he didn’t even lift his head up from the phone but would randomly interject a word in here and there, claiming he was totally present and listening. Of course until he realized that wasn’t 100% true when his wife had to call his name a couple of times to get his attention for a group picture.

How often have you found yourself in a similar situation?

You were engaged in a conversation and the technology had become a distraction during the conversation especially when attempting to establish rapport with another human being.

“Listening is fundamental in building rapport with others. We all have bad habits that can cause us to break rapport and lose the connection with the other person.” (From Power Conversations Tip #3 I know You Hear Me)

Let’s look at three common habits that cause us to break rapport and find out what to do instead in order to fix them and become more powerful communicators:

  • Interrupting the speaker
  • Making up your mind before all the info is presented
  • Showing Impatience when a person speaks at length

Interrupting the speaker

How many times have you found yourself in a conversation where you, or someone else really, really needed to say something right then, right there and it just couldn’t wait until the speaker was done? Most of us were brought up knowing that it’s important to let others finish their thoughts. An interruption is saying “what I have to say is more important than what you have to say.” Ultimately saying “I’m more important than you”. I would venture to say you probably don’t really think that. If you have something that you have to say and think you might forget, write it down or politely ask the other person to have them remind you to bring up the topic once they are done speaking.

If you or someone you know happens to be a chronic interrupter, have them busy themselves by doing something else instead in order to break the habit. I once had a client in a training that was a chronic interrupter. Since she was very high energy like a cheerleader, she decided to drink water every time she felt the need to interrupt. Needless to say while she reported to me that the solution worked, she had become very well hydrated.

Making up your mind before all the info is presented

Somewhere along the line you tuned out the speaker and dove into your own thoughts. That’s what we call an internal distraction. When that happens, you risk missing out on important information and only hearing parts of a discussion which could lead you down the path of wrong conclusions and assumptions. As a result you could end up in conflict and that does not an example of good leadership.

Instead, be sure to remain present the entire time, focus on the speaker, and ask questions to clarify any points that you are unsure about. Whether you are a quick thinker or a slow processor remain engaged, showing the speaker that they are being heard and valued.

Showing Impatience when a person speaks at length

Let’s face it, different people communicate differently. While some are storytellers who share every little detail, others might be direct, factual and brief. Often people who are high-performers want the big idea and quick facts and will show impatience when the speaker goes on and on. That might entail looking at your watch, gesturing someone to hurry with hand motions or even at time flat out saying something like “get to the point”. Those are all rapport breakers that are offensive to the speaker, yet at times we truly want someone to get to the point. How do we convey that without being rude?

Back when I was in private practice and had to take a medical history on all new patients, I would come across the long story tellers. It was common with those who experienced traumatic injuries like a fall or a car accident and were more of the emotional type. While it was important as a doctor to have empathy and understand their emotional and physical distress, all I needed in order to treat them properly were the facts of the accident like speed, directions, and point of impact.

My solution and was to find the right opening, state their name, repeat something they had said and check for accuracy with a yes/no question. I then moved to the next question. Ex. “Harvey, I want to make sure that I got this correctly, you were making a left at the light and a car came from across the intersection and hit your back passenger side? Is that correct? OK. What happened next?” By using that technique not only will you able to manage the pace of the conversation but you will be actively engaged in listening to the details making the speaker feel heard and valued, which is the goal.

As an active listener you will use different skills to show interest in the speaker and build rapport with them. As a High-Performer leader you will spend more of your time engaged in Active listening.

While Andrew is clearly a hard working individual he could benefit from improved High-Performance Communication skills, specifically Active Listening to make him an even more powerful leader. What about you? Are you ready to uplevel your game and improve your communication skills?


8 Steps You Can Take To Hire and Keep Great People

By Nicole Spracale

Running a company is hard work. Beyond the product and customer side of the equation – there is the hiring and keeping of you team piece. Never has that been more challenging than in the last year or two. As the unemployment rate continues to hover at an all time low, we are faced with the added challenge of increased competition in certain skills / industries, and more and more individuals who are willing to leave their employers after very short tenures for more competitive offers. If you are a small business or start-up, competing to hire or retain great people has never seemed so daunting! 

What can you do make sure you aren’t falling too far behind? Here are 8 Steps You Can Take To Help Hire and Keep Great People: 

  1. Get really clear on WHY you do what you do and share the vision!

Let’s face it, we spend an amazing amount of time at work. To get really engaged and driven by both the work we do and the place we do it, we need to believe in the vision. That comes from the CEO/Founder of the business. If you can be really clear on WHY you created the business, your purpose and vision for the company, and share that story with everyone you hire – it helps those around you get excited about living and driving the story alongside you! 

  1. Have a goal that serves a bigger purpose.

Along with excitement for sharing in your story, people want to make a difference. Having a goal or purpose that what you’re doing each day can serve a bigger purpose makes work more fulfilling. 

  1. Let the team be part of creating the path.

As you create yearly, quarterly, monthly or weekly goals – let the team be party to creating what those look like and/or how you are going to get there. Find a way that makes sense for the business and their unique role to have them give input and share in the process. 

  1. Make learning part of the job.

Sure, getting a paycheck for your work is great — we  also know that when people quit their jobs they talk about dissatisfaction from a lack of learning or growth on the job. Find ways to help people learn and grow inside their own role, and as individuals overall. It always pays dividends. 

  1. Give everyone a voice.

The best way to keep your team happy is to give them opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. Provide different ways to share input, recognize contributions, and value the insights that come from every person on the team – small and large. 

  1. Celebrate wins.

Winning is fun! Make sure you look for wins that can be celebrated at different times and in different ways. Most companies are really good at celebrating wins for sales teams – make sure you remember to celebrate wins that happen with your other teams too! 

  1. Admit failures.

People appreciate honesty and value it leadership. When they see you admit a failure with grace, and show what you learn from it — it is endearing. 

  1. Find your own path.

Finally, remember it isn’t about being just like company XYZ. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve created. The person you hired choose you for a reason. Stick to the values, purpose and vision you created and find ways to make that a stand out. Identify the unique offerings that work for your company and offer those, don’t spend money or time ones that don’t. Yes, some will be like XYZ, and some will be really special and just yours. This is your story – go out and build it! 

Why I Don’t Play It Safe

By Nicole Spracale

One of my favorite parts of family dinner is the conversation – you never know where it will lead. This past weekend the topic at hand turned to tryouts for school sports and other extracurricular activities. Should you go for something you might not be good at, taking a risk and seeing what happens, or play it safe and only do what you know you can achieve? 

I found myself wondering how this parallels our approach to our adult lives and careers. Do we want to be that person who plays it safe and does only the things we are sure we can do well? Work within a narrow field that was defined by our degree, stay within a specific job description … or, do we want take risks and act boldly? If we don’t take a chance and explore – how do we ever know what we are truly capable of achieving? 

Failure stinks. There isn’t enough lipstick in the world to make it look pretty. Yet, I wouldn’t trade any of my failures in the past, or dare I say, any of my failures that I am yet to make in the future, for a lifetime of “safe”. Inside each bump and bruise there’s been character building, humility, laughter, tears, growth and friendship that makes me a better leader for today and tomorrow. 

To be clear, I am not saying that you should throw all caution to the wind when taking risks. (Although, I have been known to do that on an occasion or two – and I survived it.) I am suggesting that you push yourself to be uncomfortable and do things that will force you stretch and grow beyond what you believe you are capable of. Not only will you be amazed at what you can accomplish, you’ll likely inspire a few people around you to do the same thing. Go ahead – have some fun and “try out” that hidden passion you always wanted to explore. You might just be great! 

What Makes A Great Leader?

By Nicole Spracale

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