Listen Your Way to Being a Better LeaderAn interesting headline in the Harvard Business Review blog network caught my attention: What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life.

Chaos is the term that might come to mind, in this day and age, when it’s hard to keep attention focused on any single task or project; when we have notifications pinging on devices and numerous windows open on our computer desktops at any given time.

Stop and take a look now. How many do you have open?

In the article, author Kare Anderson shared a study Disney World had hired her to conduct a few years ago – to see what captured the attention of children in their amusement park.

She and her team went in to observe how kids reacted to the cast members, rides, concessions, and multiple stimuli throughout the park.

What do you think most captured the children’s attention? Their parent’s cell phones. When their parents were using them.

We don’t think about it – we think we can give everyone the attention they deserve and desire,  but our kids, and our teams are the real judges. They can tell us if we’re doing a good job of it or not.

How to Become a Better Leader

  • Give undivided attention. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to speak to a boss, an employee, or a spouse while they are looking at their phone. They can tell you they are paying attention, but you don’t feel it. Communication breaks down when the focus is not there.
  • Focus on the positive to stay positive. What we focus on controls our thoughts. How we choose to react to something is how we have trained our brains to exist. Books upon books have been written about consciously shaping your brain to think positively. You know the negative person on your team who takes setbacks as a problem, as something personal, and permanent? The positive thinker in the group immediately sees a challenge and jumps to solve it.
  • Leaders (and everyone) should pay attention to what controls the brain. The leader sets the example. A negative leader leaves a negative impact on morale in the team. Ever notice the couple at the dinner table and both of them are staring at their phones? I bet the next day, they thought they had wonderful romantic dinner together. The same goes for when you are in meetings with your teams, or one on one with individual staff members. Take careful stock of where and how you are allocating your attention.

The best thing you can do? Give undivided attention. Be the best listener ever.

Who are some of your closest friends? The ones you enjoy most spending time with? I’d be willing to bet they are the friends who listen to you and care about you.

Listening, explained Anderson, is the “social cement” and the foundation for the best relationships. It makes the other person feel valued, and opens you up to a new world of ideas.

What would you add?