Listening Like a Leader:
The Truth about Trust
By Garrison Wynn
of the most effective people in corporate America show that the top
two percent are effective not because they executed best practices
well. They did not make the most phone calls or have the best
processes. They simply understood the truth about trust:
People do business with people
They like people they trust.
They trust people who have a
detectable level of compassion and competence.
take time to build trust?
The truth is that you have known people for five years who still
don’t trust you, and you’ve known some for five minutes who do. Our
research shows that trust is usually created by showing a detectable
level of concern. When people truly believe you are concerned for
them, they tend to think you possess good judgment. After all, if
you care about them, you must know what you are doing. So
what is the fastest and most effective way to show people that you
care and you’re competent?
they feel heard, which is more than just listening. I call it
listening like a leader. You are not a leader unless
you have followers; a leader without followers is called a failure.
Regardless of your skills, if your staff doesn’t feel heard and
doesn’t trust you, they will always do the minimum. They will watch
the clock and be ready to leave at 4:45 every afternoon. They will
do just enough each day to avoid getting fired, and they will hope
the idea you came up with without their input fails. That’s
right—you can spend your life delegating to people who want your
projects to fail. How smart is that?
Okay, you have to listen; I am sure you
already know that. The issue is, how well do people really listen?
Most studies show that 75 percent of the world’s population does not
Here is an insight that you won’t find in
many books, keynote speeches or
training programs. As a whole,
we don’t listen very well and it’s not our fault! That’s right, I am
sure you are used to hearing and reading that all of our
communication problems are of our making. However, most experts
agree that from birth to 5 years of age, we learn more than we will
for the rest of our lives.
Even if you earn 15 doctorate degrees in
your lifetime, you still acquired most of your knowledge in early
childhood. In those formative years, if a child does not feel heard
by the adults in its life, it does not possess good listening
skills. The bottom line is that it’s hard to listen when no one ever
listened to you.
not hereditary; it’s an acquired skill.
Are we going to blame the parents? No! It’s difficult to listen to young
children when we are trying to look out for their welfare. When my
stepdaughter was five, she asked me if Dracula drives a taxi cab. I
said, “Well…, I guess if it’s a night job. Uh, wait a minute! What
kind of question is that?”
She also asked me if she could have a
tattoo—not a fake, stick-on tattoo from an ice cream parlor vending
machine, but a real one. I said, “No, because you’re in
kindergarten—and I’m taking the TV out of your room just for asking
more likely to follow your example than to follow your advice. We
create better listeners by being better listeners.
Unfortunately, we don’t have much evidence
of people returning from communication-training programs as better
listeners. It doesn’t take a lot of research to figure out that poor
listeners get very little from seminars on listening.
So we don’t listen and it prevents us from
being effective leaders. If we can’t do much to improve our
listening skills, we have to focus on what we can do in the
condition we are in.
then, is to focus on making sure people feel heard. And the first
step requires recognizing and recovering from distractions.
One day, as I listened to
an employee talk about his wants and needs, my mind started to
wander. There he was, sharing his core issues, and I’m thinking to
myself, “Look at the size of this guy’s head!” It was hard to focus.
Once I was trying to listen to a prospect on a sales call when I
noticed he had red hair, blonde eyebrows and a black mustache. I
remember thinking, “It’s Mr. Potato Face! Something has to be a
stick-on; that’s not all him.”
After we recover from our own
distractions, we have to deal with the real issues at hand. The
first of these issues is what I refer to as “the pitch in your
head.” It can be anything from a preconceived idea that a manager
has about an employee, to a practiced presentation that you are
dying to spew on your unsuspecting sales victims (prospects, I
Sure, you ask a question just as you were
taught to do in your sales or management training program—you know,
a question like “Based on what criteria are your decisions made?” As
they talk and you diligently pretend to listen, the pitch in your
head starts to play; and when the prospect says something that
strikes a chord in you, triggering how much you know, your pitch
finds the pause it was looking for and off you go.
exactly what you are talking about because I have had many people
just like you with this exact same situation. As a matter of fact,
it was this time last year and they even looked a lot like you.” You
then project your opinion, experience or spiel onto the person as a
solution to his or her problem. Instead of feeling heard, the person
feels quickly judged, and communication does not take place. It was
dead before the spew was finished.
The problem with this scenario is that you
rob people of their uniqueness. When you tell them you know exactly
what the problem is, they tend to want to show you how unique they
are. You actually create your own resistance and prevent your skills
and even your empathy from making their mark.
When people are talking, you are thinking
about you or about what you can do to help them help you. It’s a
natural thing for us to do, and it forces us to pitch hard and focus
on convincing rather than on gaining agreement. So what do the most
effective people do differently?
sure the people they are dealing with feel heard and can retain
their uniqueness. If you make people feel important, you will be
important to them! But an
even bigger realization comes from all of this.
focus on how people feel about what they are saying, you increase
the level of true concern you have for others. You actually start to
become the person you thought you were pretending to be: a true
Read other articles and learn more
[Contact the author for permission to republish or reuse this article.]