“Good listening is not giving answers but giving attention.” -Robert Fryling in The Leadership Ellipse.
I’ve been thinking about this quote for several days, and I think it’s something I need to get better at. Being slow to speak and quick to listen (as James puts it) is a leadership virtue.
I’m learning this lesson primarily from my wife. If I (or others) try to offer solutions too soon it shuts her down rather than opening her up. And she exemplifies good listening. She seems to have internalized the reality that when a person is ready for advice or answers they’ll ask, and she is okay being patient until that happens.
In Tribes (I think), Seth Godin shares that the ability to listen was one of President Reagan’s most effective leadership qualities. He was in the habit of inviting the opposition to the Oval Office to discuss whatever issue they differed on. He would listen to their point of view and ask them questions until both he and the other party knew that he thoroughly understood where they were coming from. Sometimes it would lead to a modification of Reagan’s position and sometimes it wouldn’t, but his biographers say that much of his success in getting his agenda through congress was a result of the other side feeling heard and understood.