by Kevin MacDonald
For the past six months I’ve been writing articles for both Outlook and Chapter Digest.  The purpose in doing this is to give people an understanding of coaching and how it might help them be better managers or better people and, in addition, how coaching can help the people they lead.  In Outlook I try to give people an idea of various coaching concepts that may affect them.  In the Chapter Digest I’m speaking to you, the leadership of chapters, and trying to give you tools to help the members of your chapter to be better managers and to raise the professionalism of the industry.  In past issues of this publication I’ve been giving you ideas about how to steer people toward coaching.  Over the next few issues I will begin to share with you some coaching skills that will enable you to coach those members of your club as well as coaching within your management style. 

The skill I’d like to focus on in this issue is the skill of listening.  This is a key skill for both coaches and club managers.  And I can tell you that I was told I was pretty good at it when I was a club manager yet in my development as a coach I found that I had a lot to learn.  Initially when I got into coaching I think I took my habit as a manager of listening a little bit until I had enough information to give a solution.  When I learned that I didn’t have to give a solution I learned how to listen. 

I can tell you as a coach that many of the people who I’m privileged to coach truly appreciate the opportunity to be heard.  This is something to think about.  You have many people in your clubs or on your staff who have possibly never truly been listened to.  Listening to people makes them feel important, worthy and interesting.  People in our organizations who struggle to be listened to can often become the ones that are constantly complaining.  One of my favorite quotes about listening is that genuine listening means suspending memory, judgment and desire and, for a moment at least, existing entirely for the other person.  The day I first read this quote I got a phone call from a distraught woman who had lost her husband.  For 45 minutes I listened and without a need to have any judgment about her grief or a desire to solve her problem I experienced the most powerful listening I had to date. 

One of the Club Managers I coach told me that whenever his staff come to him with a member complaint he always asks to hear the complaint and have time to sit with it a little bit prior to hearing who made it.  Without having to connect to the memory of that person’s prior complaints and without having to make judgment about whether it is a legitimate complaint based on who gave it he is able to listen and be open minded.  We have been taught and trained to be judgmental.  We have our own positions about what is right and what is wrong.  But when we listed from a place where we’re focusing on making someone right or wrong we can be getting in the way of hearing what’s there.  If we’re just listening to get to a desired outcome, to find the solution, to be right, to get the person out of the way so we can go on with our day then again we are putting up obstacles to really listen.  One of the keys to great listing is that you care.  You care about the person enough to focus on them and not your memory, judgment, or desire.  So is it possible that if we can’t do that people could conclude we don’t care?   

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