Don't Be A Lawnmower!

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; They listen with the intent to reply" - Stephen R Covey

A cactus encounter with the lawnmower - Thanks Honey!
Although I have a lot of plants in my gardens, we still have quite a bit of  (crab) grass to mow. We also mow a portion of our field for a  fire guard and to keep the weeds under control. To some degree it seems to help a little bit with controlling the bugs. It seems that the more I dig up the yard, the more mowing we end up with towards the field. Depending on who is mowing, one never knows what the yard will look like. I have learned in more ways than one that lawn mowers can be very dangerous tools - particularly if the driver is impatient or inexperienced!

For many, mowing the lawn can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to unwind. Our neighbor across the street mows his (crab) grass at least weekly, if not more. He loves doing it and even mows a part of our yard by the street. His rider mower is quick and effortless. For him, the time just flies by. Our house is a bit different. My husband and sons seem to think that the faster that they drive rings around the yard and zing by my plant beds, the better. Um.. NO!

When the Kosak males mow, they become lost in their own little world. They block everything out as they ferociously mow. They hear nothing and apparently, see nothing. My evidence? They have repeatedly mowed over some plants, knocked a few new trees, and pulled out a new tree or two by accident dragging it across the lawn with the mower. Last week my husband mowed over a few cactus in my cactus garden. That required skill to actually accomplish. The cactus are elevated and in gravel beds. The evidence is featured in the pic above. He didn't even really try too hard to cover up the crime. Yes, he heard from me! I was livid!

Just as my plants are cut by accident and without intent, so many of us "cut" people in conversations without realizing it. We operate within our own thoughts and too frequently block everything out.  We fail to listen and this can have negative consequences - particularly if you lead teams. Are you "cutting" people down without realizing it? Are you blocking out what they are saying both verbally or ignoring body language? Are you the speeding lawnmower in the yard and carelessly running over people as they try to talk? If so, it's time to shift into low gear and turn the noise down.

The best leaders are hands down the best listeners. I think that listening is one of the most critical people and leadership skills. They engage with people and value what they say. They earnestly learn from others and are open to hearing what others express. They don't make judgements. If  you are a speeding lawnmower - STOP! Take the time to listen and open your heart to hearing what your people are saying.

Being a great listener encompasses so many other leadership traits. That's why listening needs to be the basis for all of your interactions. Here are the keys to being an effective listener:
  • Listening shows others that you care about them and value what they have to say.
  • Engaging yourself with others can be so rewarding and life changing for both of you.
  • Stop your brain from thinking how you will respond. Listen to every word and see every gesture that your companion is making. They may not really care what you say in response.
  • Just shut up. Listen.
  • Under no circumstances should you interrupt. Ever. If a peer stops talking, wait until they are truly done before interjecting. Some people really need to think before speaking to get their point across.
  • Always be empathetic and don't ever judge.
  • Don't always try to solve a problem. Sometimes people just need to talk. I need to remind my husband of this constantly. Just listen. 
  • Watch body language closely. You can learn more if someone is guarded in what they say by looking for nonverbal signals.
  • Make eye contact all the time. Focus on them, not you.
  • Maintain and open and positive stance and facial expressions. People are reading you as well. 
  • Acknowledge that you are indeed listening by nodding your head or murmuring.
  • You may need to summarize what you hear to make sure that you heard correctly. This reassures people as well. 
  • Be flattered and honored that people feel comfortable expressing their feelings or opinions to you. This builds trust.
Don't be a lawnmower and cut conversations without realizing it. It angers and upsets people. Trust is broken and poor listening can have crippling effects on a team.

Sometimes all I can do is sigh after looking at the wounds on some of my plants after they have been mowed. You know what? Some wounds just never completely heal. Remember this when you cut someone off in a conversation or aren't truly listening. Don't leave them with a wound. Commit to being a better listener today!