With social media providing a platform for people to air their views on any subject of their choice, it seems that people can share their thoughts when and with whomever they choose.
This development has given everybody the opportunity to tell others what they think. While there’s a good side to this, there’s also a down side.
It’s clear that our thoughts occupy a lot of our time and attention, but we have to be careful not to allow our thoughts to dominate our day – or night. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to think things through before you act. If you don’t consider the possible consequences of possible actions, you could end up having to deal with situations you really don’t want to deal with. Donald Trump hasn’t yet learned the skill of considering the consequences of saying what he thinks – and probably never will …
But turn your attention to your thoughts. Have you ever noticed how loud your thoughts can get at times? Take, for instance, when you put your head on your pillow to get a good night’s sleep. Have you noticed how your thoughts come out to play? They may do a rerun of the day’s events, what you said to someone and what they said to you, what you did in a certain situation and why you might have done it in a different way. Or your thoughts could play a fast forward – to the next day’s events and how you will handle them when they arrive.
When this happens, you find yourself twisting and turning in bed, not being able to fall asleep for an hour or so. That was the way things were for me until I used a technique that has completely eliminated the problem. After having spent years taking a long time to fall asleep, thinking that was just the way it was because I have such busy days, I now hardly know what my pillow feels like. I’m almost asleep before I hit it!
But back to your thoughts … My point is, because we spend so much time listening to our own thoughts, we allow them to tell us what to do all the time. Now that’s not necessarily a good thing. YOU have to tell your thoughts what to do and not allow your thoughts to run the show inside your head. Your thoughts are not you. You think your thoughts – and you have to take back ownership and control of them.
One of the most critical skills of new generation leaders who will succeed in the next decade is the skill of listening. While listening is nothing new, what IS new is that, whereas previously leaders could get away with not really listening to those around them, today, not listening is a high risk activity. Why? Because the world has become so complex and unpredictable, no one leader can have all the answers, hence the emergence of collaborative leadership which is based on the principle that “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
So leaders just HAVE to listen to their people – otherwise they will miss things they haven’t spotted, and miss the good ideas that could contain the seed of the company’s next big thing or miss a smarter, cheaper, more effective way of doing something.
When leaders were simply the person in charge who gave orders that everybody else followed, there was no need for them to listen. Now there is.
What is listening? You’ve probably heard what it is not. It’s been said that listening is not thinking of what you’re going to say while the other person is speaking. Put another way, one could say that it’s about listening to the other person’s thoughts and not listening to your own thoughts.
When you are more focused on the other person’s thoughts rather than on your own, you’re going to have the head space to hear what you need to hear. While you’re “listening” with an “I know better” attitude, focusing on your own thoughts while others are speaking, you’re never going to hear what you need to hear.
This requires you to engage in conscious listening, where you consciously listen to the other person’s thoughts and you consciously do not listen to your own thoughts. There will be plenty of time to listen to your own thoughts later. When someone is speaking to you, you need to listen to their thoughts, not to yours.
I urge you to become a listening leader. That doesn’t mean you give up your authority and power to take the decisions required of you. It means you open yourself up to the thoughts of those who surround you so you can make decisions that are smart, wise and for the good of all.
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, @HRFuturemag, and helps business leaders learn to lead with purpose and agility.