God gave us two ears and one mouth. Do you think there was a reason for this? Maybe, just maybe, he wants us to listen more than we talk. A tall order for most leaders!
Most of you know I wrote the book, "Mistakes Leaders Make." Here is one that is not in the book, but might have been; “Allowing talking to replace listening.”
My experience has taught me that most leaders are better talkers than listeners. My experience has also taught me that most people would prefer being listened to than talked to.
When I genuinely listen to someone, really listen, they are more open to consider what I may have to say. As a leader there will be times when I am mostly listening and making my best contribution to that person by listening rather than talking.
Now, let me set one thing straight early in this post. I am not saying that a leader should stop teaching, preaching, training, etc. but that (in personal interaction and conversations) he/she should not allow too much talking to replace serious/intentional listening. The people we are privileged to lead desire to be taken seriously and listened to well.
Because I am gifted in speaking and teaching, listening well on a personal level is an ongoing issue for me. I am often guilty of sort of listening while I am mostly thinking of how I will respond…what I want to say and simply waiting for my opportunity to speak my words of wisdom, which my warped and sinful mind has concluded is always more important than what others have to say.
As I reflect on some of the leaders who have impacted me the most, they are the ones who are as gifted (if not more gifted) in listening as they are in speaking…really!
They are the ones who really paid attention when I was sharing my heart and my pain--not because they were supposed to, but because they wanted to and were genuinely interested in what I was saying. Not too quick to give me their two cents worth and opine from their wealth of experience.
I recall Bruce, Paul, Jim and Mike, all leaders I have worked for or with. Each of them had developed the skill, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to listen with every fiber of their being. They communicated a real love, a genuine interest in me and others in what we had to say. They were great at asking questions and drawing people out--not just participating in passive listening. And each, by the way, was also an above average communicator.
Maybe listening is one of the lost arts in leadership skill sets?
A few years ago I had added in my personal prayer page for myself a note to listen better. One morning, I opened my prayer book and noticed that my wife had written something next to my “Listening Better” item. She wrote in bold letters: WITH YOUR EYES!!
My first response was anger. What was she doing looking at, let alone writing in, my prayer book? MY prayer book, mind you!
After I settled down emotionally, I realized how absolutely right she was. I still have a long way to go. I’m not where I want to be, I’m not where I will be, but at least I’m not where I was.
Have you ever had a conversation with a child and when you were not paying enough attention he/she grabbed your head and turned it so you were looking them in the eye? Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and observed them looking at their watch, glancing down at their smart phone, or over your shoulder at someone else?
Proverbs 18:13 ESV says, “If anyone gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” This same verse in The Message is rendered, “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.”
I can think of a lot of things I wouldn’t mind having on my gravestone, but stupid and rude don’t make the list. Here lies Dave Kraft…he was both stupid and rude!
Another verse that deeply convicts me is James 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (ESV) In the Phillips translation it reads, “In view of what he has made us then, dear brothers, let every man be quick to listen but slow to use his tongue, and slow to loose his temper.”
Recently I added this thought to the pages in my prayer book where I pray for myself.
For me, a big part of being relationally generous is being generous with my ears while others are sharing their hearts with me. It means giving my full and undivided attention and not letting my mind and thoughts drift to what I want to say.
Nowadays, one of the qualities I’m looking for in potential leaders is that of being more interested in what others have to say than what they have to say. Leading with their ears and heart as well as leading with their mouth.
The Wise Owl
The wise old owl
Sat in an oak.
The more he saw,
The less he spoke.
The less he spoke,
The more he heard.
Why can't we be like
That wise old bird?