“I wish he would stop talking.”
“I already know what he’s going to say next.”
“I’ve heard this all before.”
“Did Jim respond to my text yet?”
“I want to talk now.”

We all have those inner voices that are constantly creating narratives. Endless talking. What are your voices saying to you right now?

“Why should I continue to read this?”
“Is this important?”
“What’s in it for me?”

It reminds me of my client who recently participated in a 360-degree assessment. Much to her dismay, she was judged by her staff to be a poor listener. A major shock since she thought she was always very attentive and tuned in.

Did she forget to silence her inner voices? What’s going on in our brains when we are supposed to be listening? According to recent research, most of us are focused on our own performance anxiety: monitoring how we’re doing during a meeting instead of listening, multi-tasking, listening to our inner critic, trying to be the smartest person in the room, planning what we’re going to say next.

Is active listening a critical part of your job? If your job involves leadership, it most certainly is. Why are so many leaders such poor listeners?

“For most of my twenties I assumed the world was more interested in me than I was in it, so I spent most of my time talking, usually in an uniformed way about whatever I thought, thinking only of what I was going to say rather than listening to what others were saying.”

-Paul Bennett, CCO, IDEO

At some point, many of us realize that just hearing the words is not enough. Understanding is critical. We learn that caring about what others have to say is the path to success. We embrace the reality that just being in the same room with someone does not always mean that we are truly present.

Active listening is a sign of high self-confidence. You can’t have leadership presence without hearing AND understanding what others have to say.

Developing the skill of asking brilliant questions and then actively listening for the answers is the key to leadership success.

Henry Ford may have said it correctly:

“If there’s any great secret of success in life it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and to see things from that person’s angle as well as from our own.”

-Henry Ford

I’ve decided that the best place for me to start is to silence those inner voices. When I’m with someone, be with them. No distractions. No inner voices. Full attention. Active listening. I think that’s the highest compliment we can pay to others.