Several weeks ago, I was coaching with a client (let’s call him John) who was working to further develop his listening skills. In the course of our conversation he said, “I want people to feel I am genuinely interested.”
John went on to share a short, but impactful story with me. John was attending the funeral of an elderly gentleman who was a long term friend of his family. This man was known to be a very quiet man. Because of this, John was a little surprised to see so many people at the funeral. After the service, John was talking with some of the guests and mentioned that he was surprised so many people were in attendance…. Not because this man was not a great man, but rather, because this man was so quiet. One of the guests responded to him with a statement that changed John’s perspective of this man forever. The guest said, “There are so many people here to honor him because he was more interested than interesting.”
Boom! These words hit me right between the eyes as John was telling this story. I “got it” immediately as I am sure you do as well.
There are many interesting people in the world and maybe even more interesting leaders. These people are often inspiring and fascinating. There is nothing wrong with being interesting… in fact, interesting people are usually fun to be around; however, they do not often open the space to learn about others or encourage others to share. More often than not, they are too focused on their “interestingness” and what they will share next to “wow” everyone.
When it comes to leaders who are interested, I am confident the number of interested leaders is much lower than the number of interesting leaders. As I thought about it, I began to ask myself, “How would I identify an interested leader? How does an interested leader show up in their world?”
Below are 7 things I believe truly interested leaders do:
1. Practice active listening
2. Practice non-verbal language that expresses interest
a. Set aside distractions including phones and computers
b. Lean in to the conversation
3. Are not judgmental
4. Ask thoughtful and/or clarifying questions
a. Monitor their tone and inflection
5. Inspire others to share and make a difference in their world
6. Help others feel important
7. Help others feel valued
Who in your life has genuinely shown interest in you? Can you name at least one person? Did they do any of the things listed above? Are there more things you would add to this list? What will you do to be a more interested leader starting today? I know I am inspired to be more interested!