“Earing” what they’re meaning – not necessarily what they’re saying

17 12 2014

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” ~John C. Crosby

“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” ~Woodrow Wilson

Those are 2 really good “ear” related quotes, and I couldn’t pick which one, so I’m going with both.  Leader, Mentor, or both, your first role is to listen, and hear.  (My wife points out that my hearing is fine, but my listening is somewhat lacking when she’s talking about a new chore for me – 🙂 ).   Mentors may be lucky enough to have a protégé who can plainly explain what they need, but often, they don’t know what they need, they can just list a litany of the problems and issues that they’re experiencing.  So listening and asking questions will help you get to root cause/connections, as a first step.  Once you know what the cause is, you can start to give guidance, with concrete examples of how to overcome that opportunity, with a shove in the right direction.

Outside the mentor role, you have to put yourself in a position to hear your team – and it starts with walking the floor, or otherwise talking to them informally.  Listen to what they’re saying, even if they’re not saying it directly . I don’t know how many problems I was able to solve for my team once I heard enough dancing around the edges and then asked “what you’re NOT saying is that X is the problem, am I right?”  When they finally acknowledge a (potentially) uncomfortable problem, I’m happy to jump in and offer solutions.  So keep your ear to the ground, and learn to translate random grumbles into actionable issues.

Speaking of an ear…


Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com




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