Several weeks ago I had a couple of interactions that got me thinking about the topic of "listening" - specifically in the context of listening and learning from people who are further ahead than us on their journey of leadership and experience.
Let me tell you... I am blown away by the level and quality of people I've had the privilege of being surrounded with in my life. Because of that, I try to make sure that I'm extremely intentional about listening and learning from these people to the greatest extent possible.
And now that a pretty good segment of my own time is given to encouraging and offering guidance to pastors and church leaders, I want to share some very simple tips on how to prepare for and engage well in conversations with the people we interact with. (By the way...this isn't rocket science, but I think it needs to be said - especially since I find myself constantly walking away frustrated by people who seek out my time but often fail to truly listen.)
- Prepare. Think about the person you are going to be meeting with. If they're an author, READ THEIR BOOK FIRST! Don’t waste time thinking through questions that are already answered in a book. This is a great opportunity to ask unique questions that will pay out unique and rewarding answers.
- Take Notes. I literally have at least a half dozen moleskine journals filled with notes written down from one on one conversations with leaders. Don’t be concerned with how it looks sitting there writing while someone is talking to you. When I’m talking with someone and they start writing down what I’m saying, I love that because it shows me that they're hungry to learn AND......that they value our time together.
- Shut up. Seriously. You'd think this is a given, but it's not! Recently someone sought me out after a conference to ask me a few questions and I kid you not.....they would not STOP TALKING! And so guess what I did? Nothing! I just stood there and looked at them! And guess what else? They didn't get ANY of their questions answered because by the time they were done talking I had to go!
- Ask questions. Prepare some questions! Think through your current leadership challenges and what angle this person might be able to offer insight on. Prepare more questions than you think you'll need. It's always better to be over prepared and walk away with more.
- Shut up. Please.
- Be kind with their time. I've learned that not all leaders know how to break away when they need to. And often times, because they really love talking leadership, it's easy for them to just keep pouring and pouring, regardless of the fact that they have a lot of other people they should be connecting with or other priorities to tend to. Be considerate of their time! If they offer 45 minutes, take the 45 minutes and then let them go! I guarantee you that they will be way more apt to meeting with you again if they know you respect their time.
- Blog about it. Share the wealth! BUT....ask them first. If the person you are listening to feels comfortable around you, they may share more than they should - and the LAST thing they want to see is the conversation posted on your blog. So be considerate, ask permission, but by all means.....if you get the green light - share it!
P.S. Stop trying to figure out if you are the person I'm referring to. You're probably not... :) And if you are, go back and read this post 4 times.