Read part I here.
Listening . This one should be easy. If we’re not talking, we’re listening, right? Well, not exactly. A lot of times, we think we’re listening, but we’re actually planning what we’re going to say next. True listening means focusing solely on what the other person is saying. It’s about understanding, not rebuttal or input. Learning how to suspend judgment and focus on understanding the other person’s input is one of the most important skills you can develop.
Listening is a bit like intelligence—most everyone thinks they’re above average (even though that’s impossible). A study at Wright State University surveyed more than 8,000 people from different verticals, and almost all rated themselves as listening as well as or better than their co-workers. We know intuitively that many of them were wrong.
There’s so much talking happening at work that opportunities to listen abound. We talk to provide feedback, explain instructions, and communicate deadlines. Beyond the spoken words, there’s invaluable information to be deciphered through tone of voice, body language, and what isn’t said. In other words, failing to keep your ears (and eyes) open could leave you out of the game.
Saying No. Research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for many people. No is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases such as I don’t think I can or I’m not certain . Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them. When you learn to say no, you free yourself from unnecessary constraints and free up your time and energy for the important things in life.
Asking for help. It might seem counterintuitive to suggest that asking for help is a skill, but it is. It takes a tremendous amount of confidence and humility to admit that you need assistance from others. This skill is critical because the last thing a leader wants are employees who keep on trucking down the wrong path because they are too embarrassed or proud to admit that they don’t know what they’re doing. The ability to recognize when you need help, summon up the courage to ask for it, and follow through on that help is an extremely valuable skill.
Getting high-quality sleep. We've always known that quality sleep is good for your brain, but recent research from the University of Rochester demonstrated exactly how so. The study found that when you sleep, your brain removes toxic proteins, which are by-products of neural activity when you're awake, from its neurons. The catch here is that your brain can only adequately remove these toxic proteins when you have sufficient quality sleep. When you don’t get high-quality deep sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc and ultimately impairing your ability to think—something no amount of caffeine can fix. This slows your ability to process information and solve problems, kills your creativity, and increases your emotional reactivity. Learning to get high-quality sleep on a regular basis is a difficult skill to master, but it pays massive dividends the next day. Read Part III here.