Seek first to understand, then to be uderstood!

If you were to take up one thing to be an effective leader this one would be it!

Seek first to understand, then to be uderstood!

Spy ReflectionThis powerful adage comes from Steven Covey’s brilliant book¬† “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, which was chosen as one of Forbes’ 20 most influential business books. Personally, this book was a game changer for me and I highly recommend that you read it.

At the heart of this subtle saying and principle is the worthiness and value in understanding others. When we make an effort to understand each other magical things begin to happen. It is one of the most effective leadership tools you can use.

In the business world, when you open your mind to accept the knowledge of others first, you gain more than just that knowledge. People who feel you understand them are more inclined to invest their time in really listening to and understanding YOU. Seeking to understand others leads to a more effective two-way connection and a whole new level of valuable information exchange.

But understanding others is not always easy. As Dr. Covey writes,” . . . most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask . . .”

Even if we recognize the inherent value in understanding others, many of us are just not sure how to go about doing it. Here are some tips: ask, listen and remind.

Ask questions: asking questions in a sincere attempt to understand shows people that you are genuinely interested in them, their ideas and what they care about. This, in turn, motivates people to share their perspective with you.

Listen: when you listen, you are also communicating. You are communicating that you value and care about what people have to say. Listen with the intent to learn about what people think, believe and value. Again, this will encourage them to share their thoughts with you.

Remind yourself: Keep the mantra “seek first to understand, then to be understood” close in mind as you go about your day.¬† This won’t come easily at first. You will have to train your mind to remember this tool. Remind yourself as you go into a meeting, as you walk in the front door of your home, as you answer the phone. Eventually, this mantra will become a healthy, productive habit.

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