I’m noticing that there’s a critical, key-difference between:
- A stand-out leader who’s truly respected, and
- A so-so leader who’s not nearly so well regarded.
The behaviour I’m noticing, that the highly-valued, sought-after leader consistently demonstrates, is…
Conversationally, They’re An Exceptional Receiver
We’re not talking here about how well a leader receives gifts or awards or promotions. We’re talking about the leader being an exceptional receiver when they’re in a dialogue with another person.
Some people are fortunate in that they have an innate knack of effectively responding to messages. Some people learn to respond well. On the other hand, some people don’t ever go there. Up until now, this third group of leaders haven’t considered how important it is to, firstly, get real clarity on what’s being said and, secondly, respond with generosity and ease.
What Does Being A Too Brisk, Clumsy Or Unenlightened Receiver Look Like?
There are many versions of what doesn’t work—which makes this quite a big question to answer!
Some of the inelegant behaviours you will have noticed will be that some leaders, when in dialogue:
- Disappear into the private space in their head, rather than respond to what you’ve said.
- Launch into their own story, ignoring what you’ve just said.
- Critique your thinking straight up, rather than empathise with it first.
- Change the subject because they’re uncomfortable, embarrassed or have some other reason for not wanting to discuss your topic.
- Immediately push back and table their own wants and needs, without acknowledging that they’ve heard yours.
Think about these five points from the point of view of a communicator of a message that’s important to you. None of these receiving behaviours work for you, do they?
Career-Limiting Verses Career-Enhancing Habits
By the way, I also notice that the leaders who are so-so receivers need to work a lot harder in their quest to move into a more senior role in an organisation’s hierarchy. Opportunities just don’t flow to them as they do to leaders who are elegant receivers.
Being an elegant receiver of messages is not just a nice-to-have behaviour in your repertoire. It’s a career-enhancing habit that pays off.
What Does Being An Elegant Receiver Of Messages Look Like?
Some of the more noticeable behaviours of an elegant-receiver-of-messages are that, when they’re in conversation with you, they:
- Generously remain present with you, no matter how confronting they find the conversation to be.
- Courageously and unemotionally hear you out, even if they don’t agree with you.
- Ask questions when they need more clarity on your thinking. Their intent is to better understand your thinking, rather than debunk your thoughts in any way. (Curiousity might have “killed-the-cat”, but it’s an admirable leadership behaviour .)
- Let you know that they understand your wants and needs—your perspective. They’re clear that understanding and agreeing are two different things.
- Non-judgmentally, disclose which parts of what you said they agree with and support, before telling you which bits they don’t align well with.
Reflect on this for a moment…
These leaders, unwittingly, invite people to candidly converse with them, don’t they? They make it a fulfilling, coming-closer-together experience!
We talk a lot more about how-we-communicate-our-messages than we do about the way we receive messages. But start putting your attention on how the fabulous leaders receive messages. I think you’ll be consistently impressed with what you see .
Your Action Plan
What’s your natural inclination—to empathically listen and then respond, or are you sometimes a little too conversationally brisk, clumsy or unenlightened?
Which of the above sought-after leaders’ behaviours could you begin to habituate?
It’ll be good for your career—and for your out-of-work life too.
“Carolyn taught me the skills necessary to transform me from a struggling manager into a strong executive leader. I moved from being unconfident in directing work efforts as well as others, to leading a high motivated, productive, proactive and empowered team of individuals. The skills I have learnt will be with me forever, ensuring that I will be a leading contributor in any organisation I’m with in the future. Thank you Carolyn.”
– Leader, prominent finance company
PS: Breathing is a good way to settle your emotions so that you can be a more elegant receiver .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carolyn Stevens has worked with leaders for more than 25-years—hundreds of them.
She’s supported leader after leader (including those who previously struggled to confront the difficult, let alone persuasively deal with the it) flourish—and become confident, courageous and impressively influential.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She draws on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit the situation.