Could it be that the truth about managing our careers is that we sometimes don´t want to face it? I mean the truth, not our careers (though that´s a thought, too, right?). Sometimes it´s easier to get and stay busy with our jobs instead of taking a close look at whether or not we like what we´re doing. After all, who has the time?
It´s time for a truth talk. In Karen Otazo´s book The Truth About Managing Your Career . . . And Nothing But the Truth, several edicts surface, some that you may not want to face but, nonetheless, offer real insight. Here´s one that caught my eye: Truth 13: Good Listening Means Tuning in to Your Speaker. Boy, that´s the truth. Earlier this week, I keynoted Harper College´s Wellness Week and at one point talked some about the importance of networking. Here´s a trick I discovered that seems to work every time you´re working a room, something you can (and in my humble opinion should) pass on to your staff or a colleague or your dog who might be popular among other neighborhood hounds): We all know when we´re being listened to and we´re quite aware of what´s going on when our "listener" is doing everything but. A glazed look is an obvious give-away, but other subtle signs arise as well. If the person you´re speaking to is craning her neck so that she can see who´s standing behind you, that could mean she´s considering her next target. Glancing at one´s wrist is another indicator that you´re probably wasting your time. Interruptions as well are a good tip-off that this person just doesn´t care.
Okay, so here´s the trick. Well, it´s not really a trick. You´re not going to see any rabbits or quarters appear from behind someone´s ear, but you will discover something about the power of good, active listening. Imagine you´re at a networking event. Someone approaches you and begins to chat. Remember, you´re in listening mode. This person talks and talks and talks. Why? Because you´re paying attention. You´ve looking this individual in the eye. Maybe you´re nodding at all the right places. Oh, and perhaps you´re indicating your interest by offering a few prompts like "Uh, huh," "Tell me more," or "I know what you mean." And maybe, just maybe you´re genuinely interested and you don´t even have to think about these contrivances. Okay, so now the person is all talked out and moves on. She gets to the next person and says, "I was just talking to so-and-so and he is just fascinating, so interesting. You should meet him." Of course you didn´t give away too much about yourself, but you did demonstrate your interest and-HERE´S THE KICKER, THE RABBIT IN THE HAT (after all)-that you valued what the individual had to say. Now that´s good listening. It´s easier to articulate that someone else is interesting rather than acknowledge out loud that we feel valued. Still, if you can leave someone feeling better about herself, even if she´s under the illusion that you talked an equal amount, then that´s a good thing.
Do your people understand that concept-that you don´t have to fill the air in a conversation? That´s it´s absolutely okay to just nod in agreement or contribute a few acknowledging phrases? I don´t mean all the time but when it´s appropriate.
If you think this has nothing to do with employee development and has no connection to your bottom line, please, please, please think again. Soon, I´ll be featuring some Q & A´s with heads of companies that really understand how important it is to invest in people.
In the meantime, let´s take Otazo´s advice to heart: "To really listen, you must tune in with more than your ears, tune out distractions, and let others know, through words or action, that you´re following what they´re saying," she says.