At the end of a recent coaching session (an hour long meeting), I asked “what can I do to support you?”. The response was simply “just keep listening.” Immediately, my heart skipped a beat. But before I could formulate a thought, he added “having someone genuinely listen while I navigate and make sense of my thoughts has been such an enormous help”. I decided the best answer was to respond with only “Always”.
I later thought about that meeting. I realized afterwards that I think I may have talked a total of 5 mins out of 60. At the time, I didn’t really notice. He was exploring things and I was curious about what he was talking about and discovering. Then I realized that this is a pattern of feedback that I’ve been hearing more and more. When I do pry a little more about what the value is…I’ve heard several reasons:
- Ownership in the thought process that arrived to a decision or next step
- Feeling of someone having confidence in me to take ownership
- Feeling of someone invested in me
- Feeling of someone putting me first
How many times as a leader did I just listen? How many times did I try to just quickly problem solve? How many times did I try to get to the crux of the conversation/issue faster? How many times did I add my experiences? How many times did I engage verbally instead of engage silently? Too many. I listened but with a goal that didn’t always align with what they needed.
One of the benefits of being a coach (and not the leader in an organization) is that I have the luxury to listen. I don’t feel the pressures. This is what my time is allocated towards not a hundred other things. As a result, I now have experience with the value and power of simply listening with no goals. To trust the impact that this investment can have on people.
How much are you “just” listening?