I tuned in to a webinar yesterday from Leadercast called “Liberate Your Listener; Liberate Your Leadership,” presented by Executive Coach Amy Balog. Although the intended audience was leaders in the workplace, the information was relevant to anyone who interacts with people, even kids. The overarching challenge presented was, “How do we navigate in this high-demand world?” Given that we live in an unrelenting world of constant change, constant pressure, and too many (fruitless) meetings and activities, and where “everyone is hungry to be heard,” it is no easy journey.
For leaders (in any role—parent, teacher, nurse, representative, etc), what their workers (the “listeners”) are looking for is security. It’s what most people look for on a daily basis while making future plans and while fulfilling responsibilities. As society’s structures, financial systems, and political climate seem more and more unstable, it has become increasingly important for leaders to make listeners feel more secure by developing deeper connections and not only be authentic themselves, but allow their listeners to be authentic as well. As Balog says, real authenticity is a two-way street. In other words, it does a leader no good to go about being “themselves” if no one around them feels safe enough to do the same.
One of the quotes Balog used was from Linda Hill, an American Economist, TED speaker, and professor at Harvard Business School. “Your leadership depends on how people experience themselves when they are with you.” Effective leaders have to develop the skills to be active listeners, not driven by their own agenda, opinions, or responsibilities (something Balog referred to as their wrecking ball). This is especially difficult in meetings where the leader needs to hold the energy in the room by hearing what people are saying, helping people hear each other, helping people hear themselves, and creating a safe space for meaningful dialogue. She even suggested holding some meetings for quicker tasks and action items, and other meetings deliberately set aside for open discussion. But in any situation, when a listener is talking or responding, the leader needs to listen actively and not have their mind on the next meeting or the next deadline or (yikes) the next thing they’re going to say.