1) A sentence worded or expressed to seek information; 2) A matter to be discussed or decided on; 3) A problem requiring an answer or solution.
Stop listening to the incessant chatter inside your head. It results in missing most of what happens in conversations. Rather than ask, we tell. Instead of being interested in others, we are more amused by how interesting we are. Rather than listen, we prepare our responses while others talk. Try spending more time listening than talking! Listening is a critical skill that must be developed.
Demonstrate genuine interest in what others have to say. True leaders make others feel special. They invite people to lower their defenses. With an unmistakable desire to get to know the real you, they actively seek to find out what you value, believe, need and want. Realizing all of us fear rejection and hope for acceptance, they look for opportunities to make colleagues feel treasured.
Ask what you can do for others. Profoundly committed to making a difference in people’s work lives, soul-inspiring leaders continuously ask: “How can we do things better for you – make it a better company, live up to your expectations, or anything else you need?” Standing for transformation of the workplace, they will stop at almost nothing to act on what they learn. That is dedication.
Ask more questions than give answers. In fact, the fewer answers you have, the better! “Being in charge” does not equate to “being in the know” – a fallacy the myth of the mighty would have us believe. The best way to develop answers is to seek input and counsel from the many rather than the few. Real leaders ask questions in order to bring forth others’ innate wisdom.
Avoid asking questions with the correct answer in mind. Stop asking questions as the expert; start asking without having preconceived opinions. It is the distinction between asking questions to obtain data versus to unearth personal needs. Interrogation yields uncomfortable justifications while open-ended listening offers authentic clues about others’ motivation and removes barriers. Avoid “gotcha” questions.
Respect differences by asking non-aggressive questions. Summarize what is being said, check understanding and validate the feelings being expressed. Instead of asking why, use open-ended questions (what, where, when, who, how). Become comfortable with silence – it is a powerful conversational tool. It takes far greater leadership courage to step back rather than impose your world on others’.
Seek to understand. It results in being listened to. Knowing they will be given ample air time, employees no longer compete for your attention. Listening without interjecting gains more information. Deep listening wins trust. Organizations cannot afford not to listen, given how desperately they need each and every employee’s creativity and initiative.
Open doors to exploration, discovery and insight. How tremendously uplifting could our exchanges be if we listened with a generosity that dignifies the individual? What extraordinary learning could be unleashed if we asked meaningful questions that promote self-actualization? All is possible when we mine team members’ innate wisdom, for asking questions in this way leads to far richer results.
Questions For Reflection
How interested are you, as far as approaching conversations with a genuine desire to understand people better?
What do you notice about others`reactions to your questions in terms of body language, facial expression and other clues (are they defensive or not)?
What factors support or detract from your listening, and what actions can you take to listen at deeper levels?