Steven Sample, in his book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, writes, “The average person suffers from three delusions: that he is a good liver, that he has a good sense of humor, and that he is a good listener.” Plus, Steven Sample says, “Many leaders are terrible listeners; they actually think talking is more important than listening. But contrarian leaders know it is better to listen first and talk later and when they listen, they d so artfully.
The positive benefits of being a good listener are much more valuable than we often recognize. According to Jim Lange in his book Bleedership:
A couple of rednecks are out in the woods hunting when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are rolled back in his head.
The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls 911.
He frantically tells the operator, “Bubba is dead! What can I do?” The operator, in a calm, soothing voice says, “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”
There is silence, and then a shot is heard.
The guy’s voice comes back on the line and says, “Okay, now what?”
As this story about rednecks illustrates—we can hear what is said without really listening to what is being communicated. The hunter above heard what the operator told him and technically did make sure that his hunting companion was dead. But had he really been listening, I don’t think he would have shot his partner.
The story may seem silly, but it contains an important truth. When we hear without really listening, our leadership is hound to suffer—and so will our followers. This study that stated proved that we hear half of what is being said, listen to half of what we hear, understand half of it, believe half of that, and remember only half of that. If you translate those assumptions into an eight-hour work day, here is what it would mean:
You spend half your day—about four hours—in listening activities. • You hear about two hours’ worth of what is said.
You actually listen to an hour of it.
• You understand only thirty minutes of that hour.
• You believe only fifteen minutes’ worth.
• And you remember less than eight minutes of all that is said.