I recently asked a group that had just wrapped up a leadership class to respond to the question: “What’s the value in this for you?” One of the participants said, “For me, I’m toward the end of my career. I used to manage people, but don’t anymore. This class taught me that leadership isn’t just the title you have. Leadership transcends the role.”
Leadership transcends the role.
That got me thinking that it doesn’t matter where you sit on the org chart. As a human being, you have the capacity and responsibility to lead from right where you are. There are a couple skills that with renewed awareness and practice regardless of the title, we should all be working on all the time.
One of those skills is listening. Not the “I’m making eye contact with you, so it looks like I’m listening, but really, my mind is going a million different ways” kind of listening. Or my personal favorite, “I’m staring at my (insert screen name), but I’m nodding my head and saying uh-huh a lot” kind of listening.
I’m talking about the kind of listening that’s so powerful it can be felt. That person walks away feeling heard, feeling seen, feeling cared for. Listening is not a passive act.
Want to practice? Try this:
- Turn your screen off and make eye contact.
- Stop talking. (Remember? You’re supposed to be listening.)
- Listen to literally every word coming out of their mouth so that you’re able to focus on the other person. When you’re so focused on the other person it also allows you to quiet your brain and the thoughts going through your head.
- Ask powerful questions to get them to go a bit deeper and reflect: “I heard you say XYZ, is that what you meant?” “Tell me how that made you feel?” “What’s important about this?” What’s frustrating about this for you?” “What are you most proud of?”
- Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t dismiss them. Telling someone “you shouldn’t feel that way” is a really good way to tell someone that you don’t have time for them, that you don’t really care about how they’re feeling, that you’re too busy for this and that they need to move on. Instead try: “It seems like you’re feeling (insert feeling word), tell me more about that.” “How are you going to move past (insert feeling word)?”
Listening doesn’t require a title or permission. It requires you to care.
Another skill available to anyone, anywhere is reflection. Reflection is a personal and intentional act. It causes you to pause, to slow down, and to think.
Reflection is about focusing inward and asking yourself things like:
- What’s important to me about this?
- What’s the learning here for me?
- How did that go?
- What would I do differently next time?
- What’s hard about this?
- What do I want the outcome to be?
- How do I want to use the skills I just learned?
If you’re thinking that you don’t have time for reflecting, ask yourself one of those questions and then give yourself 10 seconds to write down a response or answer in your head. Reflection can take as little or as much time as you give it.
What’s so great about reflecting? Stopping to think and reflect puts you in charge of how you show up, how you respond, and how you behave. We only have control over how we think, feel and behave. If something is not working, we need to make a different choice and that can only happen when we slow down long enough to reflect.
Don’t wait for a fancy title to “be a leader”.
We’re waiting for you.