11 Bad Listening Habits Leaders must Avoid

Listening is one of the most important competencies a leader can use. Leaders who listen well, lead well.

But sometimes even good leaders slip into bad listening habits. As you read these bad habits below, mentally check which one(s) you most easily slip into.

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Lisa J. Downs, author, listening expert, and former president of the American Society for Training and Development believes this list captures our worst listening habits.

  1. Daydreaming: thinking about unrelated topics when someone else is speaking.
  2. Debating: carrying on an inner argument about what is being said.
  3. Judging: letting negative views influence us.
  4. Problem solving: yearning to give unasked for advice.
  5. Pseudo-listening: pretending to be a good listener.
  6. Rehearsing: planning what you want to say next.
  7. Stage hogging: redirecting the conversation to suit your own goals.
  8. Ambushing: gathering information to use against the other person.
  9. Selective listening: only responding to the parts of the conversation that interest us.
  10. Defensive listening: taking everything personally.
  11. Avoidant listening: blocking out what you don’t want to hear

How many of these bad listening habits have you inadvertently slipped into?

If you mentally checked one or more, consider these tips.

  1. Ask a close friend to give you feedback on how well you listen.
  2. As you listen to someone, monitor your thoughts to catch yourself before you slip into one of these habits. The term for monitoring your thoughts is called metacognition, thinking about your thinking.
  3. Simply talk less. The acronym WAIT has helped me listen better and talk less. It stands for Why Am I Talking?
  4. Read the book Words can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman. It’s an insightful book on communication from which this list came.

What other bad listening habits have you experienced from yourself or from others?

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Traits of Catalytic Leaders

In The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leadership Organizations authors Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom highlight the value of what they call ‘leaderless’ organizations. Although I don’t endorse leaderless organizations per se, one chapter describes tools that successful non-leader leaders use to catalyze their respective organizations. I’ve listed below some of their insights from this unusual perspective.

Catalyst - Shallow Depth Of Field Macro Close-Up Selective Focus Of Word Highlighted In Dictionary In Orange

Qualities they suggest would apply to any leader.

  • Genuine interest in others
  • Loose connections (they don’t limit themselves to a few close friends but have many connections)
  • Mapping (catalysts think of who they know, who those people know, how they all relate to one another, and how they fit into a huge mental map)
  • Desire to help others
  • Passion
  • Meet people where they are (there is a difference between passionate and pushy; catalysts rely less on persuasion and more on meeting people where they are )
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Trust
  • Inspiration (catalysts often inspire others to work toward a goal that often doesn’t involve their own personal gain)
  • Tolerance for ambiguity (they learn to be OK when they don’t have concrete answers to big questions)
  • Hands-Off approach (they are less apt to use command and control)
  • Receding (after they accomplish what they intended, they get out of the way)

The authors also contrast CEO’s to Catalysts.

CEO’s vs Catalysts:

  • the boss vs a peer
  • command-and-control vs trust
  • rational vs emotionally intelligent
  • powerful vs inspirational
  • directive vs collaborative
  • in the spotlight vs behind the scenes
  • order vs ambiguity
  • organizing vs connecting

What do you think about leader-less organizations? Do you think leadership is either one or the other?

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Top 10 Quotes from Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit

Last week I attended my tenth Willow Creek Leadership Summit. I had the privilege to attend with about 50 leaders from the church I pastor, West Park Church. This may have been one of the best summits for me. I’ve captured below the the top 10 quotes and insights from the speakers.

Top 10 phrase written on whiteboard isolated on white

1. Make sure you keep the takers from getting on the bus. Adam Grant (Wharton prof) played off of Jim Collins’ often quoted maxim, “Made sure you get the right people on the bus.” Adam said that it’s equally important to make sure we don’t put the wrong people into our leadership structure.

2. Live for your eulogy, not for your resume-Albert Tate, pastor Fellowship Monrovia.

3. Talent may get you to the top, but only character will keep you at the top-Craig Groeschel, pastor of Lifechurch.TV.

4. You are only as strong as you are honest-Craig Groeschel.

5. Art is about learning to see-Ed Catmull, Pixar CEO.

6. You will keep your customers by doing three things: welcome them well, meet their wishes, give them a good farewell-Horst Schulze, CEO Capella Hotel Group.

7. Research tells us that we each have an average of 3.4 blind spots-Bill Hybels.

8. Great leaders (level 5 leaders) inspire others not to follow them, but to follow a cause-Jim Collins, business thinker and author.

9. Will I settle to become a good leader or will I grow to become a great leader-Jim Collins.

10. Leaders need more than just a forward gear. We need to be able to stop and sometimes to in reverse-Liz Wiseman, author and consultant.

11. (bonus quote) There area three kinds of feedback: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. 93% of US workers feel unappreciated-Sheila Heen, author and consultant.

If you attended, what was your greatest insight?

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How to Plan an Effective Solo Planning Retreat

My undergrad degree is industrial engineering. So, planning comes second nature for me. Yet as a busy pastor I’ve found that I can never get adequate long-term planning done unless I carve out regular extended times away, by myself, away from the office. Here are a few tips I suggest.

Business concept. Isolated on white
  1. Schedule 2-3 personal planning times each year, preferable overnight in a place with no TV. I’ve used retreat centers and a friend’s cabin in the woods. Ideally I’m in such a location that I don’t have to talk to anybody. I’ve found it ideal to plan those times well in advance of ministry seasons (i.e., Aug/Sept for the coming year plans).
  2. Compile a list of items you want to think about on your retreats. I use Outliner on my iPhone/iPad to jot down ideas and thoughts I want to pursue later but don’t have time at the moment to think about. Another great tool across all Mac and PC platforms is Nozbe.
  3. On the retreat, prioritize what you want to plan, starting with the most important. I’ve discovered I never get to everything on my list, but I do get to the priorities.
  4. Schedule you next retreat as your first task. This allows me another block of time to address long-term planning for items I don’t get to on this retreat.
  5. Go expecting that God will guide this process.

What has helped make your planning retreats successful?

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The 10 Most Important Questions You could ever Ask Yourself

Questions reveal a lot about us. Good questions can point us in healthy directions. Great questions can save us from disaster. Several years ago I read a brief article by Donald Whitney, a pastor and seminary professor, who gave me permission to re-print his article that lists 10 important questions. It is outstanding and I’ve included it below.

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Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

What questions would you add to this list?

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Copyright © 2003 Donald S. Whitney.

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