I had the opportunity yesterday to spend the morning with a highly efficient team of senior leaders and senior sales reps. Their commitment to building and maintaining a healthy organization was evident from my first conversations with the COO through his communications to his team and certainly in my interaction with them.
After our time together one of the reps and I began to converse and he mentioned to me that he was grateful for our time together and for what I brought to the table. Specifically, he mentioned that often when consultants make presentations they say they want people’s feedback and interaction, yet when people respond, the “expert” cuts them off in order to make his or her point. He concluded, “You not only invited the discussion but facilitated it; asking and waiting for our involvement.”
Reflecting on his comments, I am grateful. But I feel compelled to blog about this not out of grandiosity but out of a reminder to myself to follow the advice I received from my Sunday school teachers: Lead with your ears; follow up with your tongue.
If you know me, that advice is not easy to hear (for one reason as a child I had a hard time keeping my mouth closed). According to the Myers-Briggs personality profile I am an “extrovert.” (DiSC profile labels me an “I” for Influencer.) The strengths-based movement identifies skills sets associated with my ability to communicate. I have spent a life-time honing those skills and sometimes navigating through turbulent storms created by my words.
I find myself in a season of life where there is a convergence of age and the results of intentional disciplines. More than ever, these words shared with me in the basement of the church are ringing truer. They have moved from the locked cellar of my consciousness to becoming more of a faint din affecting the way I communicate. Lead with your ears; follow up with your tongue.
We live in the Information Age. We instantaneously have access to media from around the world. I’m emailing new contacts in South Africa and Europe. Our culture is designed around the written and spoken word. True enough! And obviously, somebody has got to be listening to some of it. So what’s the point?
Lead with your ears; follow up with your tongue. It may be easy to nod in approval upon hearing this wise proverb – actually recorded in the book of James – but have you noticed how few of us actually adhere to it? I encourage you to spend some time noticing in the next few days how much of our conversations are about talking: making a point, sharing an opinion, giving an option, telling a story, et cetera. Many reading this blog have adopted the fine art of actually talking-over people (they’ve learned that it may shut the other person up for a second or two but is fruitless in the long run).
What would it be like if we choose to follow this advice: Lead with your ears? We would ask more questions and actually wait to hear the answers. We would hear what people are saying and connect with them at deeper levels. We would feel more connected to people. We would leave conversations knowing we haven’t spilled-the-beans or dumped our life’s stories on someone. We might actually be perceived as a person who genuinely cares enough to listen.
Hear me clearly; I am not advocating monastic vows of silence. I am simply learning the peace-filled benefits of what was shared with me decades ago: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue.