Another summer is fast approaching and some of you may have already begun staff orientations or you may even be in your first few sessions of summer camp. I was inspired from the latest Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast about skills to utilize in listening.
As a camp leader for over 4 decades, I have found that listening is one of the most vital skills in leadership. As we prepare for the summer in all of our camp and leadership programs, I was recently reminded of how important it is to use your ears twice as much (or more) as your mouth.
The Maxwell podcast talked about “Why am I talking” or W.A.I.T. I had first learned this from a YMCA branch director nearly 35 years ago. He would write WAIT at the top of his notes during meetings. Sitting next to him, I asked why he would do so and he told me that he would always need to remind himself to WAIT before any response or action.
|D. Brown's WAIT Chart|
Curiosity is part of listening. John Maxwell reminds me often that he asks questions with such genuine curiosity that allows him to learn so much more from whoever he is speaking with. Good leaders ask great questions due to curiosity and attention to the speaker.
I had a team member one year who was asking about what items to bring to camp. He mentioned having a "FAN" and I told him that I would be his biggest FAN. It took him a moment to get the joke/pun and several years later he mentioned it again. It's a lesson that I have learned in leading others that John Maxwell talks about frequently. He talks about imagining a 10 on the forehead of every team member. A reminder that he thinks of them as the top in their game.
I wrote about in a previous BLOG called "What Gift Is This Person Giving Me." I find that having this genuine curiousness and encouragement for the speaker to continue leads me to be a better listener. And the speaker see's and hears my attentiveness.
This leads to the next attribute and that is to listen for understanding and not for responding. I had an team members from our camp leadership team who always picked the first few words in any conversation and immediately began over talking the other person. I have been guilty of this as well. It is truly a gift to the other person when you are present enough to hear their points and to use this skill. And it is a skill that you can learn when applying some simple steps.
1) Pay Attention – give your undivided attention.
2) Physically show that you are listening. (Bob Ditter, once shared that just a relaxed on leaning stance with young people was a huge indicator that you are listening.
3) When giving Feedback.. start with “what I hear you saying is…”
4) Respond without judgment.
I ask more questions in trying to learn more about the other person’s point of view. I have been fortunate to lead others and have others lead me as well. I wrote about this in a previous BLOG, "Is It Time yet?" Essentially, listening to understand and learn from the other person. I know that I learn something from everyone that I have met.
Having to be present when there are so many distractions for your attention and time. I schedule times for leadership check ins and more importantly, how we meet. Patrick Lencioni who wrote "Death By Meeting" suggested a Daily Check In that is a standing meeting. I have used it for well over 15 years and it is a great way to teach and lead the skills of listening and prioritizing.
I prefer to use this after lunch and having the leadership team stand in a circle and go around and share their top three priorities that they are working on. Some might not have three and some might have more than three. Those who do, have to choose what their top three are. It forces them to determine what is the most important thing. The meeting is no longer than 10-12 minutes.
As folks go around the circle and share, it gives them each an opportunity to seek support and share where they may be struggling or where they can offer support to other team members.
My final suggestion is to "SHOW UP." Being present to other's is vital. What ever you have to do as a leader to show up every day; do those things. John Maxwell talks about The Law of Sacrifice: “A leader must give up to go up”. As the leader, you have to seek your support elsewhere. And you have to lead your folks and understand that there is a price to pay for your role as the leader. Listening and being present for others and often times having to expect that that is a one way skill as the leader. Yes, you have to get your team to hear you as well; however you may not be able to fill your bucket on the needs of your staff team.
|Be Present - Be Here Now!|
I know this BLOG has been very focused on Camp and my leadership has focused on those experiences. I wish all leaders a great summer season as well a success and influence throughout the year.