Reflections of an active listener – by guest blogger Njoki Yaxley, 2014 Clore Social Fellow

I’ve just got back from another exhilarating session of my first full day within the Action Learning Set on Tuesday.  The term ‘Action Learning’ sounds like another new fandangled management speak type of word that is meant to instill fear in the hearts of those who aren’t in the know!  However, I can assure you as the sort of person who likes plain and simple things – it is far from it.

At its heart is the theory and practice of sincerely listening without interruption, with respect and sympathy for the person to whom you are listening.

As I found out, this can be hard work but is very rewarding for both the person speaking and the person who is listening.  The reason it can be hard is firstly because, as the listener, you need to ‘silence’ your questions, suggestions, moral wisdom and all other unnecessary words.   Secondly, you’ve got to only intervene when it is right for the other person.  You’ve got to be careful about telling them what to do – it’s far more empowering and deeper to let them find out what they need themselves.

This got me thinking about what it is we’re supposed to do, not only as leaders but just as good human beings.  We just need to listen, without judgement and perhaps also without fear.  When we take away those limiting obstacles, the lessons can be very enriching for both parties.  The listener gets to see the other person develop, change their thinking and get closer to what they truly want.  Having also been speaker, I can confirm that it’s no easy feat to reveal a weakness and offer it up for inspection.  However, the opportunity to change one’s perspectives is wonderful and at the end, can be very liberating.

That’s some powerful stuff from just simply listening – no wonder it’s such hard work!

Njoki is a 2014 Fellow with the Clore Social Leadership Programme and her blog was first published on the Clore SLP website in March 2014. Action learning has been an integral part of the programme from the start and many Clore Fellows have gone on to train as action learning facilitators with us. 

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