In his search for Truth, Gautama Buddha found silence an invaluable companion. It was “not wordlessness or noiselessness”, according to one account of the silence of Buddah. “It had a transforming power, permeating and filling the atmosphere around him with such intensity that people seated at his presence experienced ‘the ineffable and the inexplicable’.”In such a harmonious state, it’s possible to hear what gets drowned out in the routine hurly-burly of modern life.
Unfortunately, too few leaders take the Buddha’s approach and cultivate deep listening skills. The constant static and brutal speed of the corporate world can make genuine listening a real challenge, but it’s worth persisting, argues Bernard Ferrari, a former McKinsey consultant and author of the new book, Power Listening: Mastering the most critical business skill of all. “It’s not easy to stifle your impulse to speak, but with patience and practice you can learn to control the urge and improve the quality and effectiveness of your conversations by weighing in at the right time,” Ferrari says. “Some people can intuitively grasp where to draw the line between input and interruption, but the rest of us have to work at it.” His central point: listening is at the front end of decision-making, so leaders had better take it seriously. It’s also critical in fostering innovation as “good listening … is the key to building a base of knowledge that generates fresh insights and ideas.” Ferrari’s tips: show respect, challenge assumptions and – above all – keep quiet. “That’s easier said than done, of course – most executives are naturally inclined to speak their mind,” he says. “Still, you can’t really listen if you’re too busy talking.”
credit image: artofdharma.org
A former journalist and strategic communication specialist, Josie Gibson set up a CFO network, among other things, and now works with companies on creativity and innovation initiatives. www.pourquoi.com.au