The Two Qualities Every Executive Needs at Work and at Home

In order to better understand someone we work with or our own children, leaders must hone their skills at both listening and curiosity. 

boss listening to employees
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Executives can empower themselves to be better leaders in their company and better leaders at home by following two simple rules: listen and be curious. At the end of the day, all people, big and small, want to be seen, heard and understood. In order to better understand someone we work with or our own children, leaders must hone their skills at both listening and curiosity.

At Work

As a leader, you want your people to talk to you to communicate their ideas, perspectives and thoughts. If you don't listen, you risk giving the impression that what they have to say doesn't matter, or worse, that you think they don't matter. When a person feels this way, they'll feel less motivated and enthusiastic to offer their thoughts and ideas that might move the company forward. When employees feel valued, retention is higher, productivity improves and the workplace is more harmonious, all of which is good for the bottom line!

Demonstrating curiosity shows that you don't have all the answers and an executive can look to their team to fill in the gaps. Curiosity leads executives to personal growth and a drive to gather knowledge to better themselves and their company.

Listening and curiosity go hand in hand. If you are listening to understand, then you might have some questions that come up as a result. When you're asking to gain a deeper understanding, then you are asking smart, strategic and targeted questions.

Listening in the Workplace

1. Slow down. This isn't always possible, but oftentimes only minutes are needed. Before telling someone you don't have time, ask yourself if that's actually true. Maybe you can spare a few minutes. Scheduling weekly "open office hours" is a great way to encourage employees to come to you.

2. Listen to understand, not to respond. It's common to want to respond or judge what another person is saying, but when you listen to understand, the other person feels heard. When a person feels heard, they feel connected and appreciated.

Curiosity in the Workplace

1. Ask questions for understanding. Sometimes when we ask a question, it's a statement in disguise. Avoid this temptation, and instead, ask so you can gain a better understanding. It's not important that you agree with the other person, but hearing them and asking questions for further understanding is the key.

2. Repeat back what you heard them say. This last step ensures you heard the message being sent and the other person is ensured their communication was received.

At Home

In my experience working with parents and children, most behaviors are the result of an unmet need, unvalidated emotion or an undeveloped skill. As parents, we need to look below the surface of the behavior and find out what's "fuelling" the behavior.

The steps to listening to your children are virtually the same as above. The difference is that at home, the objective is to listen to build connection, a sense of belonging and to convey unconditional love and acceptance.

Listening at Home

1. Slow down. When your child comes to you and wants to share something, this is an opportunity for you to be present and listen to them. Children don't always pick the best times to discuss what's on their minds so it may not be a convenient time for a parent. Because connection is so important to a child, slowing down and being present is a way for them to see that their words, thoughts and ideas matter to their parents and that makes them feel good.

2. Listen to understand, not to respond. At times, it can be easy to tune children out because we assume we know what the child is going to say or because what they're talking about isn't all that interesting. This happens often in parenting, but the key here is to make your kids feel loved and important to you. Listen to what your child is saying both verbally and non-verbally. You may not be interested in what your child has to say, but if you don't listen to the small things, they won't come to you with the big things in their lives.

Curiosity at Home

1. Ask questions for understanding. When you ask questions for understanding, your child sees your interest and that feels good to them. This also teaches children how to communicate, which is such an important life lesson.

2. Repeat back what you heard them say. This last step ensures you heard the message being sent. Feeling heard feels like love — it is love, and it helps you build a connection with your child. If you got it wrong, ask for clarification.

Final Thoughts

When an executive can make an effort to listen and be curious, it can quickly and dramatically level up their leadership at work. At home, it means your kids feel valued and safe to share with you and you're modeling what good communication looks like.

Companies, leaders and parents who demonstrate active listening and curiosity as a guiding value have employees and children who feel a sense of belonging and value. In a professional environment, it leads the way to innovation and exceptional outcomes. At home, it ensures deep connection, which helps eliminate frustrating behavior and makes problem-solving easier.

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