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Stephen Covey on the Power of Listening for Understanding

The one action that most leaders can take to immediately improve their effectiveness is to talk less and listen more. Click To Tweet

Stephen Covey explains the power of listening for understanding in his story about the Indian Talking Stick.

As anyone knows who has ever taken one of my college classes or attended one of my business seminars, I believe that listening is one of the most under-utilized and underrated skills of leaders and managers.

Effective listening is not waiting for others to finish speaking so you can make your point. Effective listening is suspending judgment so you can truly understand what others are trying to tell you. Click To Tweet

In our culture of just get it done, business leaders and managers often do not listen to each other to truly understand the other point of view.  When leaders and managers really learn to listen to understand the perspectives of their employees, customers, and other important stakeholders, they not only improve interpersonal relationships but they also get better results (often simply because they have better information on which to act).

Native Americans understood the power of empathetic listening. Here’s how the talking stick process worked in a two-person discussion:

When person 1 had the talking stick, person 1 controlled the discussion. While person 2 could ask a question to make sure he understood what person 1 was saying, person 2 could not offer a counter point or comment expressing agreement or disagreement. As soon as person 1 felt understood, he passed the talking stick to person 2.

At this point, person 2 now controlled the discussion and person 1 who had the talking stick beforehand had to listen to person 2 without giving any commentary. Before stating his point, person 2 had to restate person 1’s position to person’s 1 satisfaction. Once that occurred, person 2 could state his own position. As soon as person 2 felt he was understood, he passed the talking stick back to person 1.

Person 1 now restates person’s 2 position to person’s 2 satisfaction.  After this occurs, person 1 can begin again to explain his current thoughts. The conversation continues as necessary following this format until resolution occurs.

Throughout, the emphasis of this talking stick discussion is on listening to understand NOT listening to be right or have one’s way. It was a powerful communication device for resolving disagreements and problems.

How many businesses are failing because managers and leaders do not listen effectively to others?

How many businesses are failing because managers and leaders in organizations do not really understand other peoples’ perspectives?

Most leaders and managers could dramatically improve organizational productivity and their own effectiveness if they just truly valued listening to others more.

The Talking Stick is a Native American listening tool that promotes cooperation and harmony over competition and conflict. Click To Tweet
Written by Robert Tanner | Copyrighted Material | All Rights Reserved Worldwide

This article is accurate to the best of the author’s knowledge.
Content is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional advice in business, management, legal, or human resource matters.

Robert Tanner, MBA

Welcome to my leadership blog. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, and a former Adjunct Professor of Management. As a leadership professional, I bring 20+ years of real world experience at all levels of management.

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