What if there was a free gift that you could give to your team members and colleagues that was guaranteed to improve creativity, productivity and well-being?
What if you had that gift at your disposal every day? Would you be interested?
The gift that we can all give to another person is our attention. Real attention, 100%, no distractions; like that person really matters – which, of course, they do.
In her inspirational book, Time to Think – Listening to Ignite the Human Mind, Nancy Kline defines attention as “the act of listening with respect, interest and fascination”.
Nancy Kline’s astounding finding, from many years of research, is that the quality of your attention determines the quality of the other person’s thinking. She points out, astonishingly, that when someone in your presence is trying to think, much of what you are hearing and seeing is your effect on them! The quality of your listening can actually improve the other person’s thinking. How? It creates the right conditions for high-quality thinking; it’s the key to a “thinking environment”.
We all think we listen but often we don’t – not at the level required to understand another person and ‘ignite’ their mind.
Nancy Kline highlights the mistakes we all make: we finish each other’s sentences, we interrupt each other, we fill in the pauses with our own stories, we look at our watches or indicate in some other way that we don’t have time to listen and (especially as managers), we give advice – too much, too soon.
Next time you get an opportunity (and it won’t be long) why not try really listening – not superficially, just looking to get in with a response; not focusing on your agenda, or thinking about other things, but with total focus. Listen to understand and see what happens.
Individual and organisational performance depends on the quality of thinking that underpins action. Enabling better thinking will unleash better, more creative ideas. And, having someone pay you this kind of respect and attention, being heard and being able to contribute are also fundamental to well-being at work.
This isn’t a gift you have to buy, but it will require your time and your concentration. While giving someone the gift of your attention takes commitment, it can make a huge difference and it will definitely be appreciated.