12.17.10 Issue #458 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, P.h. D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Listening for Practice Success
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D., Leadership Coach McKenzie Management

If you aren’t familiar with Hallmark’s Maxine, she is a brazen older woman with a stooped back, a mop of curly gray hair and an abrasive personality. One of her infamous pieces of sage advice is “If you have something to say, raise your hand and place it over your mouth.”

Let's face it… the deck is woefully stacked against us when it comes to true listening. We are all hard-wired to evaluate and plagued by an endless internal monologue. To top that off we have to contend with external distractions in our environment. Time, to-do lists, noisy equipment or crowded rooms can all get in the way of listening.

The art of listening is truly a challenge. Hearing what is needed from your patients and your employees isn’t easy. You must seek this knowledge by deliberately asking questions and listening. Only then can you plan and decide what actions must be taken. Whether it is treatment compliance or job performance, influencing others can’t happen until you listen.

Hearing is not the same as listening. That’s why it’s called “active listening.” It is not a passive activity because it demands your attention and focus. And if you want to be a “black belt” in listening, listen for what isn’t being said in words. Non-verbal gestures, facial expressions, volume and tonality of speech give insight into the speaker’s true message.  

Even as a psychologist with years of practice, I know that listening is one of the most difficult things a human can do. Yet the ability to listen effectively is an essential component of leadership. Unfortunately few leaders know just what it takes to become a better listener. You can improve your ability to lead effectively by learning the skills for active listening.

  1. Listen with Purpose
    In your work, look at how much of your job depends on getting cooperation from other people. Intentional listening builds relationships. Invest the energy to set a comfortable tone. Allow time and opportunity for the other person to think and speak. Pay attention to your frame of mind as well as your body language. Be focused on the moment and operate from a place of respect.
  1. Listen for Understanding Rather than Judging
    As a listener and a leader, you need to be open to new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities. Even when good listeners have strong views, they suspend judgment, hold their criticism and avoid arguing or selling their point right away. Listening does not convey agreement. You can share your views later in the conversation.
  1. Reflect
    Active listening requires that you imagine what the other person’s view must be. Your job is not to change it, fight it, or argue them out of it. Learn to mirror the other person's information and emotions by paraphrasing key points. Don't assume that you understand correctly or that the other person knows you've heard him/her. Reflecting is a way to indicate that you and your counterpart are on the same page.
  1. Clarify
    Don't be too shy to ask questions about any issue that is ambiguous or unclear. Open-ended, clarifying and probing questions are important tools. They draw people out and encourage them to expand their ideas, while inviting reflection and thoughtful response.
  1. Summarize
    Restating key themes as the conversation proceeds confirms and solidifies your grasp of the other person's point of view. It also helps both parties to be clear on mutual responsibilities and follow-up. Briefly summarize what you have understood as you listened, and ask the other person to do the same.
  1. Share
    Active listening is first about understanding the other person, then about being understood. As you gain a clearer understanding of the other person's perspective, you can then introduce your ideas, feelings and suggestions. You might talk about a similar experience you had or share an idea that was triggered by a comment made previously in the conversation.

If you apply the six skills required for active listening, you will not only be known as a good listener. You will become a better leader as well. And remember that we have two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen twice as much as we speak.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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