Most people in positions of leadership – parents, coaches, managers – die with their mouths open.
Instead of listening, we chat away or simply are poised, waiting our turn to talk. But leaders who lead from the Blue Zone must learn how to listen. They must value listening and they must see listening as a craft that must be learned and practiced continually.
There is a foundational belief and a foundational practice that make Blue Zone listening possible.
First, Blue Zone leaders must believe that people are valuable and important and deserve to be listened to! As a matter of fact, not much of what we say will be valuable without this basic belief – it will all be tactical skills that may help in the short term but won’t prove to be of lasting value. Valuing others and their opinions and experiences sets the foundation for living in the Blue Zone.
Good listening is fueled by curiosity and empathy; it’s hard to be a great listener if you are not interested in other people.
This is not listening as a sales tactic. This is something deeper. It’s believing deeply that each and every person has value simply because they showed up on Planet Earth and because they are in front of you. This is a way of living – believing – which shapes the way we relate to others.
If we believe that people are simply commodities or potential customers or consumers without seeing them for the mystery they are the stories they are living, we’ll simply skate along the thin surface of things. The Blue Zone is more than a tactic or a position to adopt. It is a way of life. I can’t listen to you until I believe you have something of value to offer.
But I can come to a conversation with you, fully believing that you are of value and what you have to say is of value, and find you in sphinx-like silence. Many people when asked questions will remain silent. They’ve been conditioned in other situations to believe that their opinion is not truly being sought, that their personhood is not really being affirmed. They are tempted to believe that the person speaking to them – particularly if that person has a position of power in relationship to them – is merely asking a rhetorical question with a predetermined answer. So, the practice to cultivate is one of patience – to show up in the relationship and in the conversation rock solid in the belief that the person before you has value and has something valuable to say..and that you are content to wait until they believe that and believe that YOU believe it as well.
This takes time and must be cultivated – but consider how firm this ground is upon which to engage in conflict that can actually end up being richly productive!
How about you?
Do you truly believe that others – their personhood, experiences, and opinions – have value?
And are you willing to be patient until they believe that you really, deeply believe that?