3 Lifehacks to increase your impact by doing what you’re already doing

 In Presence

If you could do one thing to increase your impact, and it was a simple tweak to what you already do AND it would have a positive effect on almost every area of your life, would you do it?

Most businesspeople spend 45% of their time listening and 30% speaking (International Listening Association.). Typically, we are distracted 75% of the time when we are listening, which is why we retain only 25% of what we hear. Research supports the idea that being a good listener makes a leader more effective but only 2% of us have had any formal training in listening. Thus, learning to be a better listener during that 45% of your time that you are already listening could have a measurable effect on your leadership.

Although there are many behaviors that can improve listening, one of the best is to simply ask more questions and give less advice. Does that seem contrary to the idea of leadership? Weren’t you chosen to speak to and for your organization­? To inspire and motivate? To give guidance? Of course, you were. But how will you know what people want to hear if you don’t listen to them? According to Dr. Rick Fulwiler, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “effective listening is a critical component of being a transformational leader, in which you focus on not just the task, but also the person doing the work. This type of leadership is more likely to inspire excellence and dedication from your employees than if you only care about their output.”

You are already spending 45% of your time listening. Make that time more effective increase collaboration, experience more engaged communication partners, and enjoy better retention of what you’ve heard by trying just one of the three following tweaks.

Listening LifeHack #1: Message paraphrasing and encouraging speaker elaboration communicates understanding and interest. Instead of immediately giving advice when speaking with colleagues and employees, be quiet and inquisitive. Try these questions (from The Book of Beautiful Questions by Warren Berger):

  1. And what else?
  2. Just to be clear, is this what you are saying? (paraphrase what you’ve heard…)
  3. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Listening Lifehack #2: Stop multitasking while listening. Some researchers suggest that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by as much as 40% rather than improve it. Instead, give the other person your full attention to avoid a hit to your productivity and retention of information, and take notes. Then ask questions.

Listening Lifehack #3: Set aside your opinions and judgments and listen without preparing to jump in with your own POV.  Working with people who have different perspectives or areas of expertise can result in better ideas and results and perhaps even innovation. Being a more collaborative listener helps create an environment where others feel respected, valued, and comfortable being themselves.

Complement this with Harvard dean, James Ryan’s 5 Good Questions 2016 commencement address.

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