I was recently enjoying a live concert by my favorite band, a soul-filling experience I usually only have the opportunity to enjoy once or two a year.

As I reveled in the music and the musicians, I wondered about what set their performance apart from the very talented opening act who had come before, and other performers I had seen.

I had my own reasons for loving them, as their music tends to express the musings of my soul with pinpoint accuracy. But what, I wondered, made their performance that evening under the stars so powerful to the hundreds who joined me? Or to the millions who had bought their records over the two dozen years of their artistic collaboration?

Through the course of the concert, it became clear that one major contributing factor was their receptiveness.

Unlike other performers who take the stage with a quick wave to the crowd and begin playing one song after the next without saying much, these performers sauntered onstage, facing and acknowledging their fans, taking time to see the crowd, to respond to their comments, to discuss their song choice, to recall the album the next song was from and to recognize the writer of each song, too. The topper was this: after every single song, they thanked the crowd for their applause and responsiveness.

Once I added it all up, I realized their gift was their incredible receptiveness. That’s what made them leaders in their field and with their fans.

They were so good at being receptive, they made receptiveness seem easy.

One of the most challenging things about being a leader is responding to the call to continually open yourself up – whether it be for feedback from your team, for refinement of your ideas from peers or for critical analysis from mentors or bosses. We work so hard to meet needs, to push forward, it’s very difficult to pause and open oneself up for all of that input. And once done, it can be exhausting to process.

That’s why most people in leadership positions don’t do it that often.

Being open requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus and self-sacrifice. It requires humility and demands mental and emotional discipline. You must be a good listener, too. And then, you must be able to take what you’ve received, process it in your own mind and turn it into something to improve upon. Phew!

In some cases, receiving from other people can add to the difficulty. That’s when objective assessments can be extremely powerful in providing insightful glimpses into the ideas, criticisms or information you need to receive to improve.

Is receptiveness limited to leaders? Certainly not! Anyone who wants to grow in their career or personal life can build their receptiveness using these three tips:

  1. Be prepared to listen. In a meeting you might normally run or contribute significantly do, commit to listening instead. Afterwards, set aside time to jot down what you heard, how you saw people interact and what you learned.
  2. Express gratitude. Instead of rushing through reviews, training or hallway conversations, look for opportunities to express thanks for what you are hearing or learning. Then express it.
  3. Clear your mind. Take three deep breaths before an important meeting and focus on clearing your mind out of your own biases and agenda. Open up mental room to learn something new.

Thanks, y’all, for your attention in reading this blog post!