Success or failure in community leadership roles often hinges on an executive’s ability to create opportunities for other people. While leaders may be able to create these opportunities through their own expertise or experience, the process often involves connecting those in need with others who can serve them. The executives who are most successful connecting these dots don’t rely on their contact lists. They rely on their listening skills to pinpoint the critical nuances to address. Below are four Disciplined Listening tenants for increasing your ability to facilitate powerful relationships.
Listen for intelligence not information. Time constraints, routines, and tactical mindsets can unintentionally force leaders into a check-the-box mentality. This occurs when leaders have pre-ordained solutions they want to offer and listen for key words or phrases that will allow them to offer these solutions. While this information may appear valuable, it limits potential opportunities. Leaders will be able to create new and unexpected opportunities by listening for changes in emotions, messages concealed within specific word choices, and observing non-verbal communications. These outlets provide intelligence into what your counterparts are truly thinking and feeling and where the real valuable connection opportunities are lurking.
Let your conversations come to you. Leaders typically swell with excitement when they identify an opportunity to connect people within their networks. It can be tempting to cut someone off and say “I have someone you need to meet!” or ask “That’s great. Do you have an accountant, lawyer, or banker yet?” Listening is synonymous with learning. Be patient. Allow your counterparts to fully introduce and explain themselves and learn as much as you can before sharing your ideas.
Establish your credibility by illustrating your understanding of your audience’s situation. There is a big difference between telling someone you can do something and illustrating that you can do it. Telling someone “I can help you”, “I know someone”, and “I can make an introduction” can be positive first steps. However, these statements also create questions and limit the potential value leaders can create. Instead, illustrate what you have done previously, and can do for your counterpart, with a statement such as: “When I hear people indicate they need technical support, I typically point them towards three resources so they can research them and I can make the introduction they believe best fits them.”
Ask thought provoking questions. One of the greatest gifts leaders can give their audiences is the opportunity to think deeply and consider new perspectives. People are often asked the same questions at every networking event they attend. Great connectors go beyond asking “What do you do?”, “How can I help you?”, and “Who are you looking to connect with?” They ask questions such as “What strategic partnerships do you see as most mutually beneficial as you continue to expand your role in our community?”
People perceive how you communicate with them as proof of how much you respect them. Slowing down your conversations, observing for hidden value, and demonstrating your credibility by asking unique questions will raise the perceived value that you, and by extension your organization, offer. The more you listen, the more you learn, and the quicker you will cultivate strong communities.