Wise Leaders Are Listening
A wise leader makes it his goal to understand first, not only to be understood. In Proverbs we learn about two types of people: the fool and the wise. The fool’s goal is to air their opinion and have their voice heard by all. The wise person seeks to understand before they speak, and that requires listening. These are two distinctly different approaches to communication. Each Summer, Kathrine Lee, my friend and a leader on our team, hosts a communication bootcamp in which she delivers this message well. The famous prayer of St. Francis quoted from the wisdom of Proverbs 18:
“O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek…
…To be understood as to understand,” St. Francis
It Doesn’t Just Happen
Just like the sports enthusiast who dresses in team colors, cheers loudly, and continues to purchase season tickets, most of us are present in the things we value. But that doesn’t mean we are participating in or getting the benefit. Watching athletes perform does not get us the same benefit as investing in active exercise. This upcoming month our company has a national program called Active in April. We have set up social communities to hold people accountable and teach them how to add the One Simple Change of exercise into their lives this month. It is one part of our Inspiring Healthy Living program. You must be an active listener in the same way to become a better communicator. That is one of the skills we teach in our Mission Driven Business Model.
One example of this is how people communicate our business model to others. Sometimes people have a preconceived notion of something they don’t understand. One example of this is the label, or reputation, that gets put on our business model. This happens when people have a memory from personal experience, a family member, or friend that went down a road that did not end up well. Even though we employ a unique business model, called a Virtual Franchise, we get thrown into the category of multi-level marketing (illegal versions are called a “pyramid scheme”) because one of our bonuses incorporates a multi-level payout. Most people get defensive and begin to argue the issue. This has never been a problem for me since I learned a very good lesson. If I start with being “open minded” and seek to understand why they have hesitancy about our business, I am always able to clearly communicate how our business actually works. I would say that 99% of the time, they have a total misunderstanding of our business model. Once they learn that we have been around for over 45 years, that we operate in over 20 countries, and that we are the most researched brand name nutrition product in the world, they are anxious to understand more. They didn’t know that we created a unique, new model in which an entrepreneur can have an expense allowance and corporate benefits. If my response had been to become defensive and argue, understanding how to better communicate would never have happened.
That entire approach to communication takes an active and willing posture to listen (or understand) first.
Don’t Be a Fool
“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” Maurice Switzer in Mrs. Goose, Her Book
Make a decision this month to be active! Not only by starting the One Simple Change of being more physically active for your health, but also, this month, decide to become a better leader by being a better listener. To help you with this objective, I want you to picture the big-eared dog above every time you begin to communicate with someone. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Whether you listen first or speak first is one of the ways God describes the response of the fool and the wise. God clearly tells us that “taming the tongue” is no easy task. He even says that praise and cursing come from the same mouth.
If your first instinct in communication is to speak up, stop and listen first. It may mean asking a strategic question, but listen to the response. You will be so much better equipped to lead others. Master the skill of communicating by deciding today that listening is job #1 for leaders!