Why leaders who listen and validate others have an edge

The conversation Ray had with a senior leader at a pre-COVID event captivated him. He said the executive asked him about his business objectives, his role, and the challenges he faced. He listened intently to the responses and although he did not offer any advice or suggestions, his comments showed he could relate to everything Ray was telling him.

The experience had an enormous impact on Ray. He said when this senior executive was listening to him, he gave his complete attention. “It felt like I was the only person in the world. I want what he’s got,” Ray said. He had an edge that most other leaders Ray had met do not possess.

The ability to focus on others is all too rare in our talkative and distracted world. I am sure you have had the opposite of Ray’s experience when you meet someone who can talk under water about themselves. Perhaps when they get around to asking a cursory question or two, their attention wanders while they prepare their next verbal onslaught. They see listening as a passive activity, to be avoided at all costs.

Listening and validating others is in fact an active and underrated leadership attribute. Ray’s experience showed him the value of being heard and understood. Someone got who Ray is, his commitment and his courage to meet his challenges. He was validated.

Michael S. Sorensen, in the book, I Hear You – The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships, outlines four basic steps to validate people.

✴️     Empathize

Give your full attention. If you’re distracted, let the other person know and ask to talk at a later time.

✴️     Validate their emotions

Validate, even if you disagree. When you validate the other person, they become significantly more likely to listen to a differing opinion or advice.

✴️     Offer Advice or Encouragement (if Appropriate)

Offering feedback or advice is entirely optional. Perhaps someone has shared an exciting or proud moment, or perhaps you simply have no advice to give. It is not always necessary or appropriate to give advice.

✴️     Validate Again

Re-validate the emotion. Doing so reiterates the fact that you hear and understand the other person and ends the conversation on a positive, emotionally uplifting note.

🙋‍♀️ How important is listening and validating others in your experience?🙋‍♂️

Best Regards, Brian