Arm yourself by simply paying attention

by Timothy Webster

A listening leader is rare to come by. You may think listening comes naturally, but in the workplace, studies show very few actually do. Think for a moment - how many times have you said to your colleagues: "But you are not listening!" Or, when pressed further: "Don't you ever listen?" Stephen Covey, author of The 7 a. Habits of Highly Effective People, n lamented: "Most people do not listen It with the intent to understand; they i- listen with the intent to reply." d I was reminded of just how O valuable this skill is when reading Tracey Swanepoel's new book, The Ar Leadership Riptide and How to Escape. y, Tracey spent the formative years of u- her career in branding at Ogilvy & • Mather. Her extraordinary leadership work within Harmony Gold Mining 24 Company led to fascinating insights, so she decided to pen a book corporate leadership, internally and externally. The Leadership Riptide unpacks leadership at the highest level. As an adviser to some of the most powerful executives in the world, she spearheaded communications and leadership campaigns that positioned Harmony to thrive at unprecedented levels. A quarter of the way through the book, Swanepoel hits a soaring stride with the chapter "Knowing Yourself". She advocates that one of the best ways to start knowing yourself is by listening to yourself. "Fake listening is an epidemic, the result of us not listening to ourselves or being aware of our own voice," she writes. "We hear multiple internal voices talking over each other, which makes the focused attention required to listen to anyone else impossible." She continues with what I consider one of the most memorable moments of her work: "This means that real empathy and compassion are drowned out. Really listening to another person requires stillness of the soul, a quietness of the mind - an empty space where you can hold the other person. This kind of listening is a superpower." The moment I read this chapter, I was struck by how powerless most people are because they don't listen. The superpowers Swanepoel speaks of can come only when you accumulate ammunition from another's soul. To shoot down doubt, confusion and position clarity, you must be able to align your messaging to what the other person or stakeholder cares about. Without the value of insight that comes from another's deepest values, which can come only when you are truly involved as a listener, you are powerless. Swanepoel's background and experience reads like a superwoman's adventures, but not because she was born with special powers, but because she armed herself by paying attention. You'll leave her book equipped with practical tools and a strategy to empower both yourself as well as your organisation's leadership.

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