Level Up to be a Level Five Present Listener By John W. Hackett Ed.D.  

Give a Gift That Keeps on Giving. Level Up to be a Level Five Present Listener

Don’t you love gifts? It is interesting; I feel great giving someone a gift and great receiving a gift.

I recently celebrated a birthday. I was touched by how many people remembered and sent notes cards, posted on Facebook and LinkedIn, or call. Calls from my insurance agent Jen or my financial agent’s administrative assistant Sue, family, and friends, were much appreciated. People took time to say Hi and Happy birthday, a great gift. I felt valued and an important part of many people’s lives.

I was reminded that each one of us could give a gift to everyone around us that enhances their lives and ours at the same time every day by a simple yet complex process. This gift is the foundation of all the relationships in your life and a critical component to sustained success in Network Marketing or Direct Sales. This gift is free to you, but only if you intentionally learn and practice it as a daily disciple.

The gift that you can learn, practice, and model is Present Listening.

Present listening is the highest level of listening. It is often called Active Listening, signifying the activity in this level of listening. I prefer the term Present Listening for two reasons.

One is practicing Present Listening. You are 110% present to the person who is speaking. The practice of being a Present Listener conveys your care, value, respect, and desire to learn, engage and connect with the speaker. It is a gift, a present that has infinite value.

When Mary Kay greeted us, she would take your hand and, with her piercing blue eyes, lock in on you as if We were the only person in the room.

You have all probably been exposed to Present Listening in your life yet didn’t realize it. Do you remember a person in your life that always left you feeling valued, respected, and cared for? Who was this special person in your life, a boss, teacher, coach, or dear friend? That person or persons left you with a gift of being cared for, valued, engaged, and connected.

It probably started with that special person(s) practicing being a  Present Listener. You probably remember that person or feeling quickly, no matter how long ago. In the 1980′ s, the late Mary Kay Ash, Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, would host a reception for top achievers at her house in Dallas. Her house was also Pink!

When Mary Kay greeted my wife, Becki, and me at the entryway. She would take your hand with her piercing blue eyes locked in on you as if you were the only person in the room. We were one of the hundreds there, but you never felt that way. For that brief time, you were the center of her universe, and you knew it. Mary Kay gave us the gift of Present Listening.

I bet that as you think about your example, you have warm feelings of the memory. These memories stay a lifetime.

Sadly most of us can also remember the pain or frustration of not being listened to at this level. Unfortunately, those feelings stay with us for a long time and affect our relationship beyond the initial discussion.

The problem is that listening is rarely taught in high school or college. Students are taught to use words effectively, not to listen at a level of Present Listening. The result is that most people have little or no experience in how to listen. They know how to send information. They are rarely taught how to receive and process information in practical ways to be effective listeners.

There are five levels of listening. We have all experienced and probably practiced all of them in our lives and careers. Below are the levels based on a sales report meeting with a team leader. Ask yourself these questions as you read each description. Was I really heard? Was I really listened to? Were I and my information valued and respected? Do I really feel this person demonstrated that they cared about the information or me at this listening level?

Ignoring Listening

Your team leader gives you no clue they are listening and is not paying any attention. They appear to be disinterested and preoccupied.

Pretend Listening

Your team leader is nodding, smiling, and maybe shaking their head as you talk. You can tell that they are not interested in being there or the information and maybe not you.

Most people do not listen with the

intent to understand: they listen with

the intent to reply.

– Stephen R. Covey

Selective Listening

Your team leader responds only to certain items that draw their attention to respond.

Attentive Listening

The team leader nods smiles and may make fleeting eye contact. They appear to be listening to you and paying attention. You sense the leader is “going through the motions.”They are not listening for understanding or caring about what you said.

Present Listening

Your team leader welcomes you and asks how the family is doing, and thanks to you for being at the meeting. The team leader demonstrates to you that they are 110% present to you. They get up and close a door, turn from their computer and put their cell phone in a desk drawer. The team leader maintains eye contact and leans in to listen.

We have all experienced and used all the levels

of listening. If you don’t believe me, ask your

loved ones and co-workers for their assessment

We have all experienced and used all the levels of listening. If you don’t believe me, ask your loved ones and significant others for their assessment. Effective leadership requires operating at level five, Present Listening for a majority of the time. To be effective, Network Marketers and Direct Sellers must learn to lead themselves and maybe a sales team or unit in becoming Present Listeners. Present Listening is a set of intentional listening practices a leader can use, model for, and teach their team members.  What would it look like to be a Level Five Present Listener?

Here are six practices to “Level Up” to being a Present Listener

See many of the practices of Present Listening, especially 1,2, and 3.

1 Be a Present Listener by intentionally committing level up and to practice to be a better listener, a Present Listener. Develop a mindset of being curious and learning, and valuing other team members. Reinforce and model this mindset with your team. Set expectations to reinforce Present Listening; for example, one person speaks at a time, as you can see in the picture.

2 Be a Present Listener by intentionally minimizing distractions. Put your cell phone,iPad down, and close the laptop. Please focus on the speaker, their words, their nonverbals, and strive to help them feel comfortable and valued. You can see this practice above.

3 Be a Present Listener by intentionally remembering/reminding yourself that LISTEN =SILENT. Intentionally practice respect by being completely (verbally, physically, and mentally)silent, leaning in, making eye contact, and smiling everything minds relaxed and calm breathing. The picture above shows these behaviors.

4 Be a Present Listener by intentionally asking open-ended questions and avoiding closed-ended questions after the speaker has stopped. A listener can practice present listening using open-ended questions to promote discussion or elaboration. These questions start with who, what, where, and when. These questions are critical to promoting non-judgemental, safe discussion. The leader must pause Listen =Silent) to respectfully allow the speaker time to process the question and respond thoughtfully. Practicing Present Listening also includes avoiding closed-ended questions. These questions start with why, could you, should you, and would you. These questions can carry a tone of judgment, tension, and emotion, inhibiting discussion and creativity because people don’t feel safe. The leader’s use of questions will set the tone and depth of team discussions and promote learning, engagement, and connection.

5  Be a Present Listener by intentionally asking clarification questions to deepen understanding and demonstrate respect and connection for the speaker and the subject. A question like” can you help me understand more about?” or “please help me with this point.”

6 Be a Present Listener intentionally by using Next Level Questions to expand learning, connection, and engagement to assure understanding and seek feedback. An example of next-level questions would be the A.W.E.question, And What else from the Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stainer, Or What is the most important action to take now. These Next Level Questions expand the discussion to expand learning Connection and engagement. what I heard as significant points of this subject are….” Two other Next-level questions designed to gain feedback from Stainer’s book are “What have you learned today and have feedback questions such as asking, “Am I missing anything.”. A leader’s intentional use of these two questions is an excellent model for those on the team involved in the discussion.

To be effective, Network Marketers and Direct

Sellers must learn to lead themselves and maybe

a sales team or unit in becoming Present Listeners.

Leveling Up to become a Present Listener is a challenging and never-ending journey that requires commitment, discipline, practice, and learning. This process intentionally implemented will change your business, relationships, and organizations you serve. Your model of practicing Present Listening will help your sales team, family friends, and organizations you serve to learn more, connect and engage each other with care and respect. You will also grow as a leader, friend, salesperson, church member, and family member. Please remember in this process to give yourself some grace. Some days will be better than others; however, if you are a Present Listener more often after intentional practice, you are making progress. The key to this is to practice, practice and practice. The development you will experience as a Present Listener will present to you and all you work with and live with a great gift. Leveling Up to be a Present Listener will be the gift that keeps on giving. If practiced and learned, Present Listening helps you be the best version of yourself and a model to all you touch. That is why Present Listening is a present to you in Network Marketing or Direct sales and those you lead and serve.

 Two Self- Leadership Questions for you to ponder;

1 What level do you listen at most of the time right now?

2 Can you commit to “Level Up” using the six practices of Present Listening?

Resources 

Maxwell John,(2020) Many Communicates Few Connect, Thomas Nelson, New York NY

Stainer Michael  Bungay ( 2016) The Coaching Habit Say, Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever  Box of Crayons Press, Toronto On., Canada

John Hackett
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