Active Listening – a skill for the future of work
One of my greatest skills (besides texting with my tongue!) is that I’m a good listener. I guess it is quite important considering that I am a practising Clinical Psychologist. I’ve come to realise that it is one of my “Superpowers” and goes beyond my profession.
Because of my disability (I was born without arms and shortened legs), I found ways to compensate for my physical challenges. As a student, I was able to absorb what the lecturers were saying rather than furiously take notes along with my peers. During my training as a Psychologist, I realised that writing notes with my toes turned out to be a HUGE distraction for clients coming for therapy. With my client’s consent, I tested out audio recordings during sessions. I found that it made me “lazy” in some ways, knowing that I didn’t need to focus on memorising details. What works for me is to write notes later, but in session, I am fully present and engaged. I do various mind-maps in my head to store details and it works really well.
Active listening is said to be one of the greatest skills in the future of work. I was invited to do a webinar series on employee wellness for a global consulting company and one of their key requests was to help consultants enhance their listening skills. It’s quite a challenge when all their work is done virtually (mostly with cameras off), there is a lot of content in each training session and they are pressed for time.
I’ve always been of the opinion that if we all learnt basic therapy skills, we would have significantly better relationships at home and at work. Carl Rogers developed Person-Centered Therapy and taught us about the importance of empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence (authenticity). If we brought some of Rogers into the workplace, I am positive that employee wellness would be significantly better.
As I was briefed for my webinar series: “Active listening is the foundation of leadership. It is what distinguishes brilliant leaders from managers with power.”
Listening is about making meaning of what is being said. It’s about being fully present (not multi-tasking). Listening is not about focusing on what you want to say next. As Stephen Covey said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.” In a conversation, always assume that you have something to learn. Active listening is such a powerful tool as a leader. Next time an employee walks up to your desk for help, turn to face them, put down your phone/close your laptop and give them eye contact. Make meaning from the content of what they have to say.