Listening and Asking Questions Are Critical

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Seldom will you find listening and asking questions to be essential skills for leaders.

But why? It's a glaring imbalance in leadership training that overwhelmingly focuses on speaking and persuasion. 

Think of it this way - many people make a living providing speeches for organizational events. Being a persuasive, fun speaker is highly valued. They will often have a "Keynote Speaker" for events you have attended. Have you ever been to something where you had a "Keynote Listener?"

Of course not. It is not typically valued like speaking. Part of the reason is that speaking does not need to be personal, especially in a large group. 

Listening and Asking Questions Are Critical

Listening Is Personal

Listening is very different. It is highly personal because it helps when you hear one voice at a time. Leaders will listen because they have other values that help create a structure to encourage them to serve rather than be served.

The skills of listening and asking questions are developed from a foundation of outstanding values.

Listening, often overlooked as a critical leadership skill, is in fact, one of the two most crucial skills. Why does GR8 Leaders believe both are so important? Because they enable us to see inside another person's mind, to understand their thoughts and perspectives. This understanding fosters a deeper connection and clarity, essential for effective leadership.

Listening combined with asking questions—the most powerful leadership skill—creates an unbeatable combination for better understanding people and situations.

But don't be fooled into thinking listening just happens. It requires energy. It also requires knowing what prevents you from listening. Check out the 7 items that prevent you from listening so that you can be aware of them.

Listening Helps Without Trying

Finally, listening helps people even if you aren't trying. People who have someone listening to them often see it as a great, positive experience. Research shows people are helped if another person listens and offers no advice.

When people have a chance to express their thoughts to another person, they often gain clarity about their thinking. Listening also helps people feel understood, supported, and even challenged.

All of that happens when you take time to listen. It gets even better for the other person when you know how to listen and interject helpful questions.

Asking Questions

Great listening, done correctly, provides the base for the second remarkable skill—Asking Questions. When you listen by "watching a mental video," as Robert Fritz teaches, questions come directly from the "video."

When coupled with questions, listening helps leaders "see" into another person's mind—how they think. This aids great coaching and co-learning. The GR8 Leaders course 04—Coaching Excellence has sections that focus on these two skills.

From my experience, only some people will list Asking Questions as a powerful leadership skill. Most people think about leadership from the opposite side of the communication process. As I stated earlier, in most of what I have researched and studied, people believe that the most powerful skill is motivating people to act using persuasion or casting a vision. 

Questions are Powerful

But, the power of questions is the way they engage the mind. It doesn't matter if the person answers the question or not. When someone asks you a question, what happens? I just did it to you. It has less impact in written form than personal communication, but it still works. You will likely read further to see the answer to that question.

Your mind is wired to want to know or learn. So, when you hear a question, your mind pursues the answer, even when the topic is unimportant to you. When you make statements that can also engage a person's mind, but questions are much better.

Try these two underrated skills and see what happens. Stop depending on speaking as the key communication tool—elevate your listening. Additionally, learn to ask relevant, simple, and important questions so that you can better understand people and situations.


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